It’s October, which means the season of pumpkin everything: pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies, and in Tualatin, giant pumpkin boat races.
Every year, gourd enthusiasts gather for the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta, where participants race across the Tualatin Lake of the Commons in kayaks made of, yes, giant, hollowed-out pumpkins.
The event is put on by the city of Tualatin and the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers Association. PGVGA president Brett Cooper spoke to OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni before this year’s regatta on Oct. 20.
The group’s members have a mishmash of different backgrounds: an MIT graduate who is an engineer, a retired NASA rocket scientist, even Brittney Spears’ former bodyguard and the bass player from Alice in Chains.
“I don’t believe any of us are actual farmers,” Cooper said. “The one thing that holds us all together is that we’re all obsessive compulsive.”
The pumpkins they grow every year can easily top 1,500 pounds. “If you can imagine a standard pickup truck, the pumpkins we’re raising now will fill the entire bed,” he said.
The race itself is pretty straightforward. The growers carve out their gourds and jump in with a paddle. After the first heat, community members can get a shot at paddling a giant pumpkin themselves.
“It’s pretty much just a battle of attrition,” Cooper said, “because you have a bunch of people that are not very coordinated out there trying to paddle these things around.”
Even for experienced paddlers, the race is a challenge. Cooper said a person has to be in good shape if they expect to win the regatta.
“An 1,800-pound canoe doesn’t move very fast,” he said.
Hear the full conversation on the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta by using the audio player above.