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The great pumpkin caper

Someone has stolen The Great Pumpkin. Well, maybe not THE Great Pumpkin of Peanuts fame, but it was a pretty big one: a nearly 200-pound behemoth. It had been displayed, along with hundreds of its smaller brethren, outside the Farm Fresh Produce store in Hudson, where they were for sale.

And the 200-pounder, which was stolen Friday, wasn't the store's only casualty: About 300 pumpkins have been stolen from outside the store over a five-day period, according to a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report.

But the behemoth drew the most attention.

"It was the first time I had ever seen a pumpkin that big," said Pam Mullis, whose sister and brother-in-law Kathy and Louis Vanclief own the store. "It was like the Great Pumpkin _ you know, from Charlie Brown."

The thefts started Friday. From then until Tuesday, Louis Vanclief noticed a few pumpkins missing each morning, the report stated. The pumpkins were displayed outside the store and in a side lot and were not secured.

On Tuesday morning, Vanclief noticed that two rows of pumpkins were missing from the lot. He took inventory and found that 300 were missing in all _ nearly 7,000 pounds, the report stated. The pumpkins were worth $2,000, the great pumpkin about $60.

The pumpkins were part of the store's seasonal promotions, Mullis said. They were displayed in front of the store, as well as on a lot on the side, she said. The 2-year-old business received the pumpkins from Chicago and found they sold fairly well, she said.

There were no suspects

What made the crime surprising wasn't that the pumpkins were stolen, but how many were taken, Mullis said.

"It's really shocking," she said. "Unless someone planned to sell them, what would someone do with all those pumpkins?"

The store still has about 300 left to sell, Mullis said. In the meantime, she and her co-workers are thinking of some way to prevent more pumpkin thefts.

"We're trying to come up with some prank," she said, "so that whoever is taking them will know we know."