Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good grief, Charlie Brown – it’s The Great Pumpkin Race!

I’ve seen lots of pumpkin stories lately, but this one from NPR News takes the cake. Pie, rather. Checking the story online, I found that several communities hold Pumpkin Regattas. I’m featuring this one even though I can’t begin to pronounce the name of the town.
Every year in Damariscotta, Maine, people hollow out giant pumpkins (anywhere from 500-700 lbs.), a tractor places them into the water, and competitors gingerly climb inside.  There are two divisions — paddleboat and powerboat — and thousands gather to cheer them on.
Geiger ready in his decorated pumpkin
Peter Geiger is a two-time champion in the paddle division. He has his pumpkins professionally decorated by a former airbrush artist. This year, it's a bat with foam wings extending out from the sides. He even has a two-person pit crew. In a last-minute adjustment, they scoop out extra pumpkin meat to correct a forward list.
The starter announces: "Paddlers! Ready! Set! Get wet!"

Geiger and the rest paddle feverishly to a pumpkin buoy a few hundred feet away and create a bottleneck as they paddle around and race back to the dock. Geiger comes in third, behind a competing pumpkin that wallows from side to side.
Mallory building his pumpkin boat
In the powerboat division, returning champion Topher Mallory bolts a wooden frame onto the flesh of his 550-pound pumpkin. The stern is large enough to mount a 10 horsepower engine — double that of most competitors. Mallory says he needs speed to win and to keep from sinking. "Because the minute you start moving, water inevitably comes into the pumpkin and it's just a law of diminishing returns," he says. "Before you know it, you're sinking. So to win, you’ve got to get your move on."
Topher Mallory & pumpkin of choice
But this year, even though he didn’t win, he adds, "There are not so many things in life that are as simple, as fun and as awe-inspiring as giant pumpkins."


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