Who Can Grow the Biggest Pumpkin?

Girl with Pumpkin

Custer County Fair display at Broken Bow in 1886. RG2608-2964

Nothing says gardening success like a giant pumpkin. Displays of oversized tomatoes, potatoes, turnips, and other vegetables were once the central feature of state and county fairs. No such event was complete without examples of the biggest pumpkins around. The photograph above by Solomon D. Butcher depicts a young girl at the Custer County Fair in 1886 beside a prize-winning pumpkin. Pumpkin-growing contests were once a sure way to show off agricultural prowess. One such contest in Custer County in 1904, sponsored by a Broken Bow merchant, promised “one of our elegant $75.00 Estey organs” to the grower of “the largest pumpkin raised in this section of Nebraska,” to be presented for judging by the third day of the 1904 Custer County Fair. The judging was later postponed until October 1. Pumpkin seed was supplied free to contestants by the sponsor.


Custer County Fair
Custer County Fair display at Broken Bow in 1886. RG2608-2963

The Custer County Republican on October 6 noted that C. O. Miller carried off first prize with a pumpkin weighing 81 3/4 pounds. Second prize in the contest was awarded to Andrew Weaver of Mason City, whose pumpkin had barely reached Broken Bow in time for the judging due to a railroad shipping mistake. “Mr. Weaver’s pumpkin when deposited at Mason City, weighed as shown by the agent’s receipt, 85 pounds, but when it reached the scales of the judges [in Broken Bow], it only tipped the beam at 79 l/4, . . . The discrepancy in the weights was due, doubtless partially to shrinkage.” Those attending the weigh-in were treated by the sponsoring merchant to pumpkin pie and coffee. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Marker Monday: Nebraska’s Big Rodeo

Marker Monday: Nebraska’s Big Rodeo

Making Rain

Making Rain

How pioneer trails shaped Omaha streets

How pioneer trails shaped Omaha streets

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.