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Nebraska couple wins festival competition with 1,275-pound pumpkin

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As the smell of cotton candy and kettle corn floated through the air, a large crowd attended the 13th annual Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival in Rapid City on Saturday. The giant pumpkin weigh-off was among the day's entertaining events.

Tamra and Larry Ziems of Ewing, Nebraska, won the weigh-off with their 1,275-pound pumpkin, but Tamra said they’re still learning from other elite growers. 

“We’ve learned from them to pre-germinate our seed and start with really good genetics,” she said. 

Ziems said growing giant pumpkins is an extreme form of gardening and encourages anyone who is interested to try it. She added that the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth and bigpumpkins.com are both helpful resources. 

Hear from the winners of the giant pumpkin weigh-off and "Punkin Chunckin" competitions on Saturday in Rapid City during the 13th annual Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival. 

Ziems and her husband, Larry, start by pre-germinating seeds indoors in the spring and then transplanted them into a miniature greenhouse to stay warm. 

“This pumpkin was pollinated on June 29 and here we are 1,275 pounds later,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to watch it grow and change daily.”

The couple said it was great to find out they had won the weigh-off and appreciate all of the advice other giant-pumpkin growers had given them to get to this point. 

“We’re really excited to be here today and proud that your community puts on this event,” Ziems said. 

Thousands gathered to watch student-built trebuchets launch pumpkins hundreds of feet across Memorial Park on Saturday as South Dakota Mines’ Center of Excellence for Advanced Multidisciplinary Projects (CAMP) hosted their 14th annual “Punkin Chunckin” competition.  

Mines students on the Robotics Team won while competing against other Mines students in the Baja SAE and Steel Bridge teams as well as South Middle School and Douglas High School teams. During both the morning and afternoon round, teams launched three times for accuracy to 100, 200, and 250 feet and once for distance.  

Mines' Robotics Team President Dustin Richards says that although the team’s trebuchet had the same wooden structure as last year, they added some modifications such as additional bearings to reduce friction and a limit switch to get consistent drop heights. 

“We have an electrical system, so it’s on brand for the Robotics Team. Our trebuchet is halfway to being a robot,” Richards joked.  

Richards also said the Robotics Team spent the night before the competition testing throws for about six hours until 1 a.m. in order to build a spreadsheet that would make it easier to throw accurately. 

Richards said he most enjoys being around people and the chaos of pumpkins flying everywhere. 

“It’s really entertaining, and it’s even better when you get to see your team win like that,” Richards said. 

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