UACES Facebook Pickings slim in this year’s giant pumpkin, watermelon contest
skip to main content

Oct. 20, 2021

Pickings slim in this year’s giant pumpkin, watermelon contest

By Tracy Courage
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • Greene County 4-H member Mark “Buster” Passmore wins with 219-pound pumpkin
  • Isaac Staton of Logan County wins watermelon division with 47.5-pound melon
  • 4-H Giant Pumpkin and Watermelon contest nurtures youth interest in horticulture

(406 words)
(Newsrooms, with additional art at

LITTLE ROCK — This year’s 4-H Biggest Pumpkin and Watermelon Contest entries were a little on the lighter side but still managed to survive a growing season beset with rain, flooding and even drought.

RETURNING CHAMPION — Twelve-year-old Mark "Buster" Passmore of Greene County waits for a forklift to hoist his pumpkin onto a scale at the 4-H Giant Pumpkin Contest on Oct. 16. Buster won first place — his third win at the state level. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

Twelve-year-old Mark “Buster” Passmore from Greene County delivered the winning pumpkin, weighing in at 219 pounds. Isaac Staton, 9, from Logan County won first place in the watermelon contest with a 47.5-pound melon. Staton also won second place in the pumpkin contest with a 66-pound pumpkin.

This was Passmore’s third win at the state level. In 2019, he delivered a 491-pound pumpkin, and last year he won with a 334-pound pumpkin.

4-H members contended with rain and flooding that delayed their planting, which cut short the growing time for their pumpkins and watermelons. Others lost plants to mildew and blossom rot. Those, whose plants survived the tough summer, hauled their choice picks to the Arkansas State Fair on Oct. 16 for the official weigh-in.

For the contest, participants grew the same varieties: Carolina Cross watermelons and Atlantic Giant pumpkins. Pumpkins had to be planted between May 14 and Oct. 16 Watermelons were planted May 14-Oct. 16. Passmore said he was more than two weeks late planting his pumpkin due to weather.

“I didn’t think I was going to have a pumpkin this year,” he said.

Pumpkins thrive in consistent growing conditions, and this year’s growing season was anything but consistent.

“If you get a little rot in the stem or on the belly, the pumpkin is done unless you have a second one on the vine,” Greene County extension agent Dave Freeze said. “Most growers, though, pulled smaller fruits off the vine to allow their choice pick to get all the nutrients.”

Several young growers also picked their pumpkins and watermelons early when the vines began dying, resulting in smaller melons.

“They certainly had a lot of challenges this year, but that is part of learning about horticulture,” said Priscella Thomas-Scott, 4-H events coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “We’re proud of all of them who persisted and learned.”

Pumpkin winners:

1st place — Buster Passmore, Greene County, 219 pounds

2nd ­place — Isaac Staton, Logan County, 66.25 pounds

Watermelon winners:

1st place – Isaac Staton, Logan County, 47.5 pounds.

2nd ­place — Ivy Staton, Logan County, 46.25 pounds

3rd place — Carissa Webster, Logan County, 43 pounds

4th place — Carlee Nguyen, Cross County, 12.5 pounds

5th place — Madison Wilson, Cross County, 11.75 pounds

6th place — Abby Smith, Cross County, 5.75 pounds

4-H is the premier youth development program of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. Programs are offered in every county in Arkansas. To learn more about 4-H, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.


Media contact:
Tracy Courage
Director, Communications Services
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126