Scott Armstrong's eyes welled with tears Sunday when he learned that the pumpkin he had spent the past five months growing in his backyard tipped the scale at 1,456 pounds, a new Hicks Nurseries contest record for the biggest pumpkin grown on Long Island.
As he picked up his youngest daughter, Ava, 4, and placed her on top of the massive gourd, his other daughter, Marissa, 8, asked her father why he was crying.
"I'm just so happy," he responded.
Armstrong, 41, of Commack, won the 11th pumpkin weighing contest at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, taking home a trophy, plaque, blue ribbon and a $500 cash prize. But the banker was most excited about setting the record, squashing his 1,279-pound record set last year.
The second-biggest pumpkin this year, grown by Robert Phillips, of Peconic, was nearly 1,100 pounds lighter, but still an impressive 377-pounder. Phillips took home $300.
Gabe Borgese, 9, took third place and a $200 cash prize with a 40-pound pumpkin he grew in the backyard of his Merrick home.
It was Borgese’s first attempt at growing a pumpkin. He said he plans to keep growing pumpkins until he can smash Armstrong’s record.
Armstrong, who gave some of his seeds to Borgese, said he was around Borgese’s age when he first got the idea to grow pumpkins while visiting a farm upstate.
Denny Alexakis, 4, of Plainview, entered a 16-pound pumpkin and earned the Rookie of the Year title.
Armstrong didn’t start growing pumpkins until 1998. Back then, he recalls other growers telling him it wasn’t possible to grow a pumpkin on Long Island larger than 700 pounds.
“It took me awhile to get there, but now I’m doubling it,” he said. “It can be done.”
Armstrong said growing the best gourd possible is something that’s on his mind all year round. He’s constantly tending to his garden, trading seeds and researching new ways to improve his pumpkins.
When purchasing their home, Meredith Armstrong said her husband insisted on a house with the maximum sun exposure in the backyard. The license plate on his truck, which he used to transport his giant pumpkin Sunday, also reads: “THNK BG” for “Think Big.”
“I knew what I was getting into,” she said. “His personality is all or nothing.”
Scott Armstrong said he isn’t content with his current record. He told the crowd Sunday: “This is the largest pumpkin ever grown on Long Island and I still think I could do 1,500 pounds.”