FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As he cut down his massive sunflower to take the official measurement for the record books, Alex Babich was still in shock.
“My mind is blown. All I was trying to do was beat my personal best. I had no idea I’d beat a U.S. record,” he said.
The Fort Wayne man, who grew up in Ukraine and moved to the United States as a teenager, said the timing is also incredible.
“I’m a proud American with Ukrainian roots,” he said.
The sunflower is the Ukrainian national flower.
“Russia invaded Ukraine and to grow a U.S. record and for it to be grown this year by a guy born in Ukraine is really special,” Babich said.
While Babich measured the massive flower as it was growing, and was confident he broke the national record in August, he needed to wait for the seeds to mature before cutting it down for an official ruling. It finally was ready to be harvested this week.
Three Allen County Master Gardeners, Simone Alberding, David Miller and Beth Krill, came to take the official measurement. After carefully digging the giant out of the ground and angling it out of its scaffolding protection tower, the flower was laid down on three tables. The official length of record came in at 25 feet two inches, breaking the previous U.S. record of 24 feet nine inches.
“Next year, I’ll try to beat my best again and it would be another new U.S. record,” Babich said with a big smile.
Babich will sell most of the seeds from the record-breaking sunflower, but some, along with the stalk and flower head, will go to the Fort Wayne History Center. The museum wants to preserve Babich’s story in its permanent collection.
“We’re putting Fort Wayne on the map,” Babich said.