For many people fall is about apples, foliage, and cooler weather. For others, it is all about sports — football, soccer, field hockey, and baseball (World Series). For me, this is the season of Giant Pumpkin Regattas.
It all started with a 1998 Farmers’ Almanac article about Howard Dill in Nova Scotia and his ability to develop seeds that grow giant pumpkins — monsters that are dozens of times larger than the ones you and I put outside our homes in October. Howard Dill perfected giant pumpkins. In 1998 the record was 1,061 lbs grown by Paula and Nathan Zehr in Lowville, N.Y. in 1996.
Since then, giant pumpkins have taken on new levels of sizes and shapes. Last year the world record pumpkin topped the scale at 1725 lbs! This year I believe this record will be broken because of the heat and techniques used in growing them. I know what you are thinking — there are no steroids used in this sport and instead giant pumpkin farmers have natural nurturing methods to help their orange fruits grown into gigantic pumpkins.
So what do you do with these giants?
Sail them of course! In the 2006 Farmers’ Almanac, we ran a story on — Pumpkin Paddling on Lake Pezaquid in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada. This paddling contest struck a chord with me and I decided that based on my former experience as a canoe and kayak instructor, I should give pumpkin sailing a try. So with the help of a giant pumpkin grower in Maine, I loaded an 850 lb pumpkin in a truck and crossed the Canadian boarder to compete in my first pumpkin regatta. (I did OK but learned that maybe bigger isn’t always better when you have to paddle a giant orange fruit across a lake.)
Since then, I have been competing in Pumpkin Regattas in Damariscotta, Maine, and this year I an racing in one in Sanford, Maine. As with any competition, it takes great physical conditioning, a sharp talent with a paddle and, of course, a seaworthy pumpkin.
On Saturday, Chris Pomerleau, a friend of mine, and I picked up a 600lb pumpkin grown by good friend and pumpkin genius, Al Berard. Here I am with the pumpkin and loading it into a truck — no easy task. A bumpy ride can crack the sides, so care is taken every step of the way.
My race is September 18th in Sanford, Maine. I have to decide on how to decorate this “boat”. Stay tuned for more. I am the defending champion in Damariscotta, so the pressure is on for more victories and a bigger trophy case. By the way, size is not the deciding factor in racing pumpkins. In fact as long as you “fit” you want it to be as light as possible. More to come.