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Pumpkins ahoy! at Oquirrh lake

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Keyra Kristoffersen

Racers in pumpkin boats row their fastest across Oquirrh Lake at the 2017 Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta. (LiveDaybreak)

Gallery: pumpkin boats [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

Row, row, row your pumpkin, all across the lake. That was the theme of the 2017 Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta held at Daybreak’s Oquirrh Lake on Oct. 21. 

“It’s a way to kind of give back to all of our customers,” said Robb Baumann, one of the founding members of the Utah Regatta. 

The regatta began seven years ago when members of the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers, that included Baumann from the Mountain Valley Seed Company, decided to take some of their giant pumpkins for a spin out on Sugar House Pond.

“I told a few friends that we were going to do it, and we just had a gentleman’s race. We started cutting them up and figuring it out,” said Baumann, who said the process was definitely trial and error.

The first year, a pumpkin weighing around 1,182 pounds and paddled by Andrew Israelson won first place. Travis Evans, another member of the group, would eventually hold the World Record title of “Fastest 100 Meters,” rowing a pumpkin in 2015. It is being added to the Guinness Book of World Records.

This drew such a crowd and built so much interest in giant-pumpkin growing that the number of racers increased every year. Eventually, Sugar House Pond could no longer accommodate the race, and LiveDaybreak stepped in to offer Oquirrh Park and Lake as a substitution. 

“To have a place to unload the pumpkins, a place to carve them and then have 4,000 people to be able to spectate, along with eight to 10 food trucks—it was almost as if our venue was made for the race,” said Dan Rodgerson, of LiveDaybreak.”

This is the second year the regatta has been held in Daybreak, and both residents and racers seem pleased with the arrangement.

“We were real happy to be back this year,” said Baumann. “Daybreak just couldn’t be better hosts.”

Eleven entries made their way across Oquirrh Lake in carved pumpkin boats ranging from 400 pounds to 1,000 pounds amid the excited spectators. 

The race winner was Jim Seasons, who rowed across in a 550-pound pumpkin called “Perdy.” Awards for Best in Show were also awarded, as mascots jumped off the pier and families posed in front of an extra giant pumpkin for pictures. A pumpkin naming contest was also held for one special 450-pound pumpkin that ended up with the moniker “Pumpkin Spiced Yacht.”

Baumann first got involved with the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers because of his work at Mountain Valley Seeds, which sells primarily vegetable seeds to local Utah growers. He learned that a lot more goes into the growing of giant pumpkin boats than anyone thinks, 

Almost every giant pumpkin grower is using genetics relative to one original grower, the Dill’s Atlantic Giant Pumpkin, based in Nova Scotia, Canada. Utah growers traditionally start their seeds on April 15, moving them to a garden space by early May and harvesting in the first week in October. Baumann said that the difference in size can be so dramatic that between morning and night, they can sometimes gaining 50 pounds in a single day during prime growing time. 

When it comes to carving a giant pumpkin into a boat, there are a lot of options and many lessons that Baumann and his friends have learned over the years. One must decide whether to carve out the flat side as a natural bottom, which drags but offers stability, or the round side to glide more through the water but can sacrifice stability.

“Everyone’s got their own strategy, and that’s half the fun,” Baumann said. “It’s just silly and fun.”

The Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta has always been free and open to the public, and Baumann insists it will remain so because it’s just for the fun of pumpkins. 

“We do want to inspire people to grow,” he said. “Kids come out and get excited and want to grow, and they’ll grow an 80- to 100-pound pumpkin without too much work.” 

Rodgerson takes pride in Daybreak’s ability to attract new and different events and activities that maybe the public hasn’t seen before. He said what makes the pumpkin regatta so popular is a crazy, weird formula.

“Most people haven’t seen a pumpkin that large, and then to see a pumpkin that large in a race and then to see a bunch of yahoo guys dressed up in costumes in pumpkins at this kind of race is incredibly entertaining,” said Rodgerson, who is looking forward to the 2018 calendar of events.

For more information on giant-pumpkin growing, visit http://www.utahpumpkingrowers.com/index.html. 

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