CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — It has been less than a week since Lydia Nichols arrived at the Virginia State Fair, giddy, ready to pick up her giant blue-ribbon-winning gourd. Upon arrival, however, she found that it had gone missing right from the tent.
“That excitement turned into a pit in my stomach when I realized that my Tromboncino was gone,” Nichols wrote in a Facebook post. “Although I had my claim tag, someone had managed to claim it as theirs. I know it’s just a squash, but it was mine that I grew with love and attention.”
The 47-inch, 9-pound first-prize-winning tromboncino squash was Nichols’ first-ever entry into the State Fair, and she said unless the fair steps up its security protocols, it may be her last. She said she reached out to fair officials, and no one knows anything about where the gourd may have gone, or who might have taken it.
“It just means a lot to us – it’s a manifestation of all of our hard work,” she said.
Nichols said she planted the tromboncino back in May and spent months tending and caring for the growing plant before harvesting the future first-prize winner right out of her own backyard in September.
“They usually only get like three feet long, to get one that is four feet is unusual,” she said. “The conditions were just right to grow this giant squash.”
While nobody seems to know how the gourd went missing from the tent, Nichols said one reason someone may have swiped the squash was for its premier seeds — so they could grow their own blue-ribbon winner.
After first posting about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her squash on Facebook just five days ago, on Oct. 5, the money being offered for its return has increased by more than 300%. Nichols said she’s had friends, and even complete strangers, reach out to donate money toward the reward — which is currently being offered at $335, no questions asked.
“The kindness and generosity are mindboggling,” she said. “The more we can get the word out there, the better chance we can get it home.”
Nichols said she hopes for the return of the special gourd so she, her husband and her 17-year-old daughter can enjoy the fruits of their labor and dedication.