A 400-pound pumpkin grown in Delhi will be displayed in Times Square next month for millions to see.
The behemoth gourd was grown on the grounds of Delaware Academy through the school’s elementary garden program, according to Jason Thomson, district superintendent, and will be showcased at the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan.
“On the lower campus, there’s a much larger garden with just about everything you can think of,” Thomson said. “The pumpkin was grown in a smaller, educational garden.”
The pumpkin was grown under the guidance of Delhi resident and master pumpkin grower Ed Chytalo, who has been growing giant pumpkins for about 30 years.
Each year, Chytalo hosts pumpkin-themed presentations for students at the school, but said he tries to impart his audience with the value of perseverance.
“It’s not just pumpkin trivia and reading ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,’” he said. “It’s like I plant a tiny pumpkin seed in their heads that they can do anything they want.
“I’m a firm believer in setting goals for yourself,” he continued. “The first four years I did this, I never grew a pumpkin, but I never gave up. I could’ve said I’m not doing this anymore, but I didn’t.”
Chytalo said he provides teachers with follow-up worksheets to use in the classroom as “a tool to help the kids swim upstream.”
Giant pumpkins can grow up to 15 pounds a day, Chytalo said, but are susceptible to pests such as woodchucks, mice, chipmunks and insects like the squash vine borer, which got to the pumpkin this year.
“It didn’t hurt much, but it definitely took away some poundage,” he said.
Brian Rolfe, an art teacher at the school, was tasked with scoring the Hard Rock Cafe logo on the pumpkin, Chytalo said. Five years ago, Rolf scored the school’s mascot, a bulldog, into another of Chytalo’s massive pumpkins.
Chytalo's pumpkins, including the Hard Rock creation, will be showcased at The Shire Pub in Delhi throughout the fall.
Chytalo said he visits New York City several times a year, and as an avid rock music fan, dines regularly at the Hard Rock Cafe.
“I’ve gotten to know the managers there over the years,” he said. “When I told them what we were doing, they jumped right in.”
Chytalo and Thomson will load the pumpkin the night before its 150-mile journey using a tractor and a forklift.
Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond offered a police escort for the pumpkin’s transport, which Thomson said he readily accepted.
“It will work out really well, given how busy Times Square is — we’re planning on pulling right up front of the restaurant,” he said. “They didn’t have to do this, but they went above and beyond.”
“We just think it’s a really great opportunity,” Thomson said. “You never know what can come from a partnership, and it’s key to establish long, meaningful, positive relationships.”
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.