CUMBERLAND — How many people do you need to lift a prize-winning giant pumpkin?

Trick question. It takes three burly, bearded men – and a crane.

Or so it did on the opening day of the 148th annual Cumberland County Fair, which featured pig races, pulling competitions, a demolition derby and the annual pumpkin contest, where growers from all over Maine showed off their most ginormous gourds.

Cooper Lauzier and Braydon Doyon, both 8 and of Saco, take a break to work on their candy apples while Cooper’s dad, Ben, uses the ATM on opening day at the Cumberland County Fair. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

“Used to be four guys’d wrestle a pumpkin on and off the scale,” said Charlie Wells, who has been coming to the contest since 1992, when prize pumpkins weighed a couple hundred pounds.

Now, with advances in genetics and growing techniques, it isn’t unusual for them to reach half a ton or much, much more. At the Cumberland Fairgrounds on Sunday, a boatyard crane hoisted and weighed pumpkins as a crowd of growers and squash-lovers looked on.

The record at the Cumberland fair is 1,046 pounds, set in 2015. Bigger pumpkins and prizes – up to $2,500 – are found at the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta in midcoast Maine, where a 1,756-pounder made headlines in 2017.

“Now this thing’s big,” said the announcer, John Chandler, as Charlie Lopresti of Buxton carted in a ribbed, bright orange monstrosity.

As the crane lifted each pumpkin, growers and onlookers leaned in to see the readout.

Lopresti’s entry weighed in at 664 pounds, enough for him to win the blue ribbon for the second year in a row and a $500 prize. The runner-up was Derek Curtis, also of Buxton, whose pumpkin was just shy at 658 pounds. He won $350.

“I took mine off the vine at 7:30 this morning,” Lopresti, a meteorologist on WGME-TV, said to Curtis, who let out a joking sigh.

“Ah!” he said. “Mine came off 24 hours ago.”

Growing a giant pumpkin takes a lot of water and nutrients. But most of all, it takes a lot of time and commitment, enough for the growers to become quite attached, Chandler said.

“Since April, they’ve been fiddling with the pumpkin, massaging it, poking and prodding the thing. So by now they really love the pumpkin,” Chandler said.

He paused.

“Most of them remain married,” he said.

The top prize would have gone to Scott St. Laurent of Lyman, who brought in a whopping 1,400-pounder, if not for a mishap involving a hole in his pumpkin.

St. Laurent spent months tending to it. He fed it nitrogen in its early days, supplemented with what growers call “manure tea.”

He shepherded it through frosts and shielded it from bugs. He grew so close to the fruit that he seemed to imbue it with human properties – which made its demise all the more devastating.

“It loves to eat,” St. Laurent said. “It just doesn’t know when to stop.”

The pumpkin gobbled up water and nutrients, at one point packing on roughly 50 pounds a day.

One day, St. Laurent came out to the patch to find that his prize fruit had blown a hole in itself from growing so quickly.

“I couldn’t handle it,” he said. “I cried for three days. I couldn’t even go near it.”

St. Laurent brought the pumpkin to Cumberland anyway. With the hole patched up, it wasn’t eligible for prizes. Still, it towered over the competition.

And he says he has an even bigger one at home.

The fair continues through this week.

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