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‘Rise of the Giants’ preview chronicles monster pumpkins

By Shannon Smith correspondent - | Sep 23, 2014

LEHI — The Mammoth Screen at Thanksgiving Point’s Museum of Ancient Life was the perfect venue for a sneak preview of a new documentary film, “Rise of the Giants.”

The work documents the 2013 giant pumpkin growing season, chronicling the struggles as well as personal bests of pumpkin growers in Utah, California and Oregon, including Tim Mathison’s best, a world record 2,032 pound pumpkin.

The mammoth theater was nearly sold out with more than 300 people attending Saturday’s screening.

“I knew this movie was going to be big, but I never envisioned it playing on such a huge screen,” said filmmaker Daria Matsa at the show. “You’ll have to forgive us if some of the subtitles get cut off, we’re still tweaking it.”

Matsa and producer Mark Evandorff, themselves students of the giant pumpkin culture, raised more than $20,000 with a successful Kickstarter campaign to pay for the movie’s production costs.

“I saw an image of someone growing a pumpkin, and I fell in love with it,” Matsa said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I did some research and emailed a bunch of people and Kyle with Utah Giant Pumpkins was the first to write back,” she said.

Kyle Fox is the president of the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Club. He said the club has about 150 active members. In 2012, there were more giant pumpkins weighed in Utah than anywhere else in the world, according to Fox.

“I saw giant pumpkins in Santaquin and it was love at first sight,” Fox said. “I really caught the bug.”

He’s been growing giant pumpkins for seven years.

UGPG members will be sponsoring their 10th annual weigh off at Thanskgiving Point from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Many who attended Saturday’s documentary preview were self-described “pumpkin heads” — people whose hobby is growing giant pumpkins, along with their supportive, if somewhat bemused, families.

Kevin and Jennifer Mullennax have been growing giant pumpkins for three years. The Mullennaxs attended Saturday’s sneak peek. Kevin said he plans to enter his giant pumpkin in the Thanksgiving Point weigh-off.

“Even though giant pumpkins are not good for eating, I like how gardening allows me to grow my own food and be more self-reliant,” Mullennax said.

“Who doesn’t want to grow a giant pumpkin? It’s magical watching it with your kids, hearing them laugh and giggle,” he said.

Mullennax said it’s fun to be the guy with the biggest pumpkin on your street.

“Making this movie taught me the power a hobby has to influence your kids and help you make connections with a community,” Matsa said.

After the premieres, Matsa and Evandorff plan to enter their documentary in film festivals and then market the piece to a broader television audience.

Sept. 25

6:30 p.m.

“Rise of the Giants” will be playing again in Utah at the Watergardens Theatre in Pleasant Grove. This showing is now sold out and a second theater was added. To purchase advance tickets go to www.waterdardenstheatres.com. For updated showing information, visit www.facebook.com/riseofthegiants.

Sept. 27 

8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers 10th Annual Weigh Off at Thanksgiving Point

For a schedule of activities go to www.utahpumpkingrowers.com.


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