family with gourd
The Yip family’s 111 pound bushel gourd took home first place in the bushel gourd family division.
boy with pumpkin
Charles Cross of Hilo won first place in the giant pumpkins/squash youth division with his 270 pound pumpkin.
boy with watermelon
Kawika Vera of Orchidland took home the top honor in the giant watermelon youth division with his 48 pound watermelon.

For eight years and running, the Hawaiʻi County 4-H program, part of the Cooperative Extension Service housed in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), has found a special way to bring out big smiles from its smallest members: a contest of giant fruits and vegetables.

Becky Settlage, Hawaiʻi County 4-H agent and state coordinator for the Hawaiʻi Junior Master Gardener Program, was looking for a unique and fun way to get youth excited about agriculture. Her goal was for keiki to appreciate and love the outdoors, and learn to be self-sustainable.

With the “stay at home” situation this year, the contest started earlier than normal as a way for keiki to do something while stuck at home.

This year’s entries exceeded 2019 by 236%, and several state records were added. A total of 75 entries ranging from tomatoes, giant pumpkins, watermelons, bushel gourds, long gourds and sunflowers, were weighed and measured through the end of October.

“Little do these children realize that, besides having fun trying to grow a giant pumpkin, giant watermelon, giant tomato or giant sunflower, we’re also secretly teaching them a love of science, and skills such as problem solving, responsibility, teamwork, recordkeeping, and of course, getting outside and being active in a safe way,” Settlage said.

Wendi Sasaki, a parent participant who has entered the contest the last two years, said “The opportunity to grow ‘giants’ with my children is a blessing. We were able to spend quality time together, learning and ʻgrowing.’”

The winners were presented their award during a virtual ceremony on Saturday, October 31.

Visit the Hawaiʻi County 4H program’s Facebook page to see a complete list of the winners and photos.

girls with sunflowers
Sisters Ava and Kira Morse of Hilo with their winning sunflower heads. Ava won first place in the youth division with her sunflower head measuring 15 inches.