Paddling Pumpkins

This cluster of solo-propelled pumpkins were sponsored by a cluster of pubs. (Allan Lynch Photo)

Peanuts’ fans are familiar with the concept of The Great Pumpkin.

Well, great and giant pumpkins are the norm in Nova Scotia. Our pumpkins are so big we hollow them out and paddle them across a lake as part of the Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

Pumpkinhead paddled in his 16th regatta. (Allan Lynch Photo)

The 19th Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Windsor had over 50 entries, one of the largest turnouts in several years. We’re expecting even more for the 20th regatta in 2018.

The Giant Pumpkin weekend has a pumpkin painting party the night before the regatta. Regatta day there is a parade through Windsor of the entries and supporters. The parade ends on the far side of Lake Pisiquid where a team of forklifts remove them from their floats and transfer them to the lake. Then participants make any final adjustments to their pumpkin (like removing seeds they missed before) and are assisted into the craft.

Dressed as a hot dog and relish these participants were raising funds for the Children’s Wish Foundation. (Allan Lynch Photo)

And then the regatta begins!

It is great fun. The town of Windsor has a resident population of 3,500. Over 5,000 people come to the lakeside to watch the regatta.

Not only is the regatta fun, it illustrates the decency and good sportsmanship of people. For example, in 2016 two sight-impaired women participated. It was a bucket-list experience for them. However, as they were about to board their pumpkin they realized it had a crack and was taking on water. Two young men, students at Kings-Edgehill School, stepped forward and exchanged pumpkins with these women. A kayaker followed the women across the lake shouting directions to them so they could finish.

Early in the regatta one pumpkin sank. That didn’t deter its rower. He swam across the lake. It was probably less work than trying to paddle a giant pumpkin. (Allan Lynch Photo)
The spirit of Canada. (Allan Lynch Photo)

At the 2017 regatta one pumpkin was painted with the Canadian and Bolivian flags. A student from each country paddled the pumpkin. They were a living example of the real acceptance and diversity of Canada.

The Giant Pumpkin Regatta is an offshoot of the passion Windsor farmer Howard Dill had for growing giant pumpkins. In the 1970s Dill perfected the giant pumpkin. Dill was known to spend cold nights in his pumpkin patch, wrapping blankets around his early Atlantic Giant Pumpkins to protect them from the frost. Many people wondered why anyone would want a 500-pound pumpkin. Now giant pumpkins hit almost three times that size.

This pumpkin represents a craft rum distiller. (Allan Lynch Photo)

Guinness-Record- Holder Dill was crazy like a fox. He knew it would fire the imagination of competitive gardeners and launch a fun business around his quirky creation. His wife Hilda bought into his passion and wrote a pumpkin cookbook. Howard died in 2008, but his passion and humour lives on in every giant pumpkin in every pumpkin patch around the world and though Windsor’s annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

It’s a natural progression. Once you’ve weighted your pumpkin, then hollowed it out to make the couple of hundred pies a humongous gourd will yield, what else is left but to race the shells?

Windsor’s Giant Pumpkin Regatta is the coolest way to play with our food.


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Post-paddle pumpkins are pulled aside in a holding area. (Allan Lynch Photo)