PALMER - It wasn't a beauty contest.
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Had it been a contest of looks, some cabbage other than "Bruce" might have won the Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off on Friday night at the Alaska State Fair.
Even its grower, 11-year-old Brenna Dinkel of the famous cabbage-growing Dinkel family of Wasilla, admits that.
Just before the weighing began in front of the packed grandstands in the huge Farm Exhibits barn, she pointed out one particularly gooey leaf to her friends.
"Yuck," she said.
Credit the torrential rain that pelted Southcentral Alaska this August for that, explained Gene Dinkel, Brenna's dad.
"We picked three of them, and that was the ugliest one," he said. "But it was the heaviest one too."
So Brenna named him Bruce.
How heavy was he?
"73.4 pounds!" announced Mike Campbell, the official from the state Division of Weights and Measures chosen to end all arguments, peering at the scales.
That made Bruce the leader up to that point out of 35 cabbages and nearly nine pounds heavier than the next best thing, the 64.8-pound cabbage entered by Wasilla grower Steve Hubacek.
But there was one more entry left to weigh.
It was the handsome, flowering cabbage grown indoors by Colony Greenhouse owner Scott Robb of Palmer, the same master gardener who'd set a world record just two days earlier by growing a 96.9-pound kohlrabi.
"I pride myself on how they look too," Robb said, just before the weigh-in.
But the scales were blind.
They weighed Robb's cabbage at 65.2 pounds - good enough to win the second place ribbon and a $1,000 prize.
But Bruce was the winner, and Brenna Dinkel won the $2,000 first-place prize for the second year in a row. Last year she won with an 85-pound cabbage. Barbara Everingham of Wasilla set the state record in 2000 with a 105.6-pound cabbage.
Brenna credited her grandfather, Don Dinkel, for helping her this year - as well as a big fence that helped keep the moose out.
And what will she do with her earnings?
Last year she invested part of the $2,000 in her personal collection of plastic "Briar horses." This year, she said, she plans to do the same.
Also emerging as a winner was Jarye Murphy of Wasilla, who captured the Junior Division Cabbage Weigh-off and a $250 prize by growing a 49.2-pound cabbage. Second was Cody McQuillin, at 47.6 pounds, and third was Thomas Van Diest (39.1 pounds).
While the rain played havoc with cabbages, it didn't damage certain root crops and indoor plants that set records this week. Among them were Robb's kohlrabi and five world records by North Pole grower Dave Iles.
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