UWEC’s Wide World of Sports

    Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice and giant pumpkin races.

    More stories from Lauren Spierings

    COVID on campus
    April 1, 2021

    Photo by SUBMITTED

    The sight of people in giant pumpkins racing across a lake might be bizarre for most people, but for residents of Tualatin, Ore., it’s just another annual celebration of West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

    Using kayak paddles to move, participants hop into the pumpkins they carved out themselves and set off across the water.

    Tualatin puts on a Halloween festival to usher in the holiday at the end of the month. The 2019 regatta took place this past Oct. 19 and was the sixteenth annual regatta.

    Starting in 2004, Travel Portland said the festival kicks off with a giant pumpkin parade and a weigh-off. After that, the festivities may begin.

    The regatta takes place in Tualatin Lake of Commons, where participants race in four different heats for 100 yards across the lake and back.

    According to Lonely Planet, the first heat is solely for the Pacific Coast Vegetable Growers, since it is this club that is responsible for growing the pumpkins every year.

    The pumpkins come from all over the country, some even coming from Canada. Lonely Planet said the event organizers don’t know how many pumpkins there will be until they arrive.

    Once the club has raced, the community is allowed to hop into the pumpkins and race as well, using the same pumpkins as before.

    An added rule for racers is that they must be wearing a costume in order to paddle across the lake, adding to the Halloween festivities. Additionally, racers can carve or decorate their pumpkins before they hop in, OPB said.

    Usually, one heat is reserved for the mayor of Tualatin and other sponsors or special guests.

    The final open race is the big attraction. Anyone around the world can enter the lottery to be one of the 20 final participants in this race. The lottery winners are drawn in September every year preceding the festival.

    While the regatta is quite popular, the event also includes pumpkin golf, pumpkin bowling, a 5k run and other activities, according to the Oregon Festivals website.

    Due to their large size, participants report that the pumpkins can get past 1,500 pounds in weight even after being carved empty, OPB said.

    Preparing the pumpkins to be boats doesn’t take long, Heidi Marx said to Lonely Planet. Since pumpkins are largely hollow inside, it makes the job fairly easy.

    “They only take a few minutes to carve out on the day,” Marx said.

    Marx said that it wasn’t uncommon to see one or two of the pumpkins sink every year, adding that one year a man tried to keep swimming while dragging his pumpkin behind him in the water.

    Additionally, the pumpkin seeds are saved so that the pumpkins can continue to be grown in gigantic sizes for the next year.

    According to the Tualatin official website, the pumpkins are composted by a local company after the races are finished.

    Giant pumpkin regatta is not limited to just Tualatin, however. The sport is practiced in many locations, including Nova Scotia, New Hampshire, Vermont and likely many other places.

    Spierings can be reached at [email protected].