SEATTLE — There's something weird and wonderful taking shape in Seattle's Maple Leaf neighborhood. It's a "giant" effort that started a couple of years ago.
"This was our pandemic pumpkin project," said Brooke Oettinger.
In 2020, Oettinger and her next-door neighbor, Karl Pauly, set out to brighten the mood of the neighborhood by planting a couple of champion seeds and growing their own jack-o'-lanterns in the front yard strip of soil between the street and sidewalk. But you could say things have gotten out of hand.
"It's an obsession," Oettinger said. "Every year you want to beat your last weight."
"The first one I grew hit 684 pounds," Pauly added. "Which isn't too bad for the front of your yard in Seattle."
Oettinger's first gourd weighed in at 221 pounds. Last year she nearly doubled that.
"I took the second year off," Pauly said. "And Brooke was still growing. I was really jealous."
But that's not to say it's a competition.
"I feel like we're more partners than rivals because we help each other," Oettinger said.
It takes a village to raise a giant.
"You can't leave 'em alone," she said. "They're babies."
When one family is out of town, the other tends to their crop for them. After all, these big "babies" require constant attention. There's planting and pollinating and pruning, not to mention tucking them in at bedtime to protect them from the cold.
"There's a sleeping bag that I put mine under," Pauly said.
The result is an autumnal attraction.
"We put it on Google Maps and then people started following and taking pictures, and they really liked it," Oettinger explained.
If you're passing through Maple Leaf be sure to say hello to the farmers with the smallest garden and the biggest crop.
"It gets you outside," Pauly said. "It gets you talking to everybody. It's an instant icebreaker. Grow a plant. Meet your neighbors."
Oettinger and Pauly plan to weigh their pumpkins on Saturday, Oct. 23 from noon until 4 p.m. The public is invited to attend. Follow this link for directions.
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