Local composer and producer, David Zagardo has a new tile to add to his resume, Giant Pumpkin Grower.
So, what do you do during a quarantine?
You try something new.
Earlier the year, David was doing his normal garden prep and came across some giant pumpkin seeds online. An hour and a half later after watching a YouTube PowerPoint about how to grow giant pumpkins, the Bluff Park resident figured he would have lots of time on his hands with the COVID-19 quarantine, so why not give it a shot.
“I set aside a couple (big) plots of land for these guys, and started to plant,” David explains. Next, he took to Facebook and found the Backyard Giant Pumpkin Growers group and a generous amount of help and guidance. “Got to give credit where credit is due, without guys like Cecil, Jay, Christopher, Shannon, and everyone else in there, I wouldn’t have made it past 500 lbs. The community is wholly supportive, and everyone just wants to see each other grow really, really, really big pumpkins.”
What do you do with 833lbs of pumpkin?
No pie here, you head to the Kentucky State Fair
In light of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines, traveling to the Kentucky State Fair felt imperative. “But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had no idea when I’d be able to do something like this again. Something new. Something exciting. And off we went, packed up in a uhaul for a 1,000 mile round trip with a pumpkin in tow. With 2020 being nothing short of surprising, I’ll admit I’d been getting cold feet leading up to it,” David says.
The pumpkin weighed in at 833 lbs and David took 5th place at the Kentucky State Fair. He also set the record for the 7th largest pumpkin of all time in the state of Alabama.
“The general theme of my experience has been ‘nothing is a given,’ and ‘don’t take anything for granted.’ You just never know how long you have, or what you’re going to wake up to in the morning. Cherish everything you’ve got,” David says. “I’m feeling this way because of a pumpkin. By all respects, an inanimate object. Full of life, but still. Perspective is a funny thing. Perspective is in short supply these days.”
The Return Home: Rowing the Cahaba
On Saturday, August 29th, David got in his 833 lbs Atlantic giant pumpkin and rowed down the Cahaba benefiting the Cahaba Riverkeeper.
Rowing his pumpkin seemed like a novel enough idea that he had been considering it as a final send-off – either that or blowing it up – oh my, but when a buddy tossed out the idea of turning it into a fundraising opportunity for the non-profit organization, David immediately jumped on the idea. “We built the website, GoFundMe, and started promoting it all in about 3 or 4 hours. It seemed like such an absurd idea at the time,” David says.
The Cahaba Riverkeeper works to keep the Cahaba river clean, safe, and preserved. “Without them, our rivers would continue to be polluted. There are few advocating for the protection our watersheds need. Alabama is America’s leading state for freshwater biodiversity. I’m a believer in what Cahaba Riverkeeper is trying to do, and I wanted to find a way to give back,” David says.
In 24 hours, over $800 was raised for Cahaba Riverkeeper. “I hadn’t expected to make it past $100, but people really seem to be into the idea of me sailing my pumpkin down the Cahaba,” David says.
“I’d just like to say that I’ve gotten much more than I’d bargained for from my giant pumpkin growing experience. 2020 has been rough, but somehow, through my pumpkin, I’ve fostered so many wonderful new relationships. I can’t wait to see what next year’s giant pumpkin growing experience brings!”