The great pumpkin race makes waves for charity

What looked like a pumpkin boating competition turned out to be exactly that — the second annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta. Massive, tire-sized pumpkins carved into makeshift boats were the regatta participants’ vehicles in the unique water relay, which successfully collected money for the Linking Learning to Life organization. According to the charity’s mission statement, their goal is to help prepare youth for successful transitions by connecting learning to careers, college and community.Regatta observer Manny Fletcher laughed about the event.”I never thought a pumpkin would float, had to see it for myself,” he said.     Pumpkins had to be lifted by a tractor because of their massive size and put into the 58-degree water, event emcee Charles Propello said.A Ben and Jerry’s participant with a cotton cow head hat, Nicole Baltwin, said her greatest goal was to “stay afloat” during the race.During the races a few pumpkins sank, forcing competitors to swim their pumpkin to the finish line. Nevertheless, they did it with a smile despite the cold water and laughing observers.”There are a lot of elements that can prevent the event from going smoothly,” event volunteer Page McCormick said.This year it wasn’t a very good growing season and they had trouble finding a tractor, she said. More than just a water race, the Giant Pumpkin Regatta showcased Ben and Jerry’s, Shelburne’s Orchid, a gyro stand and pie and coffee peddlers as some of the vendors selling items at the waterfront. More side activities included a pie-eating contest and two blow-up bouncers. The Vermont Giant Growers Association provided event sponsors with pumpkins for the race, which they decorated in theme — dressing to match.One man dressed up as Harry Potter, with his pumpkin sporting a semi-visible broom, while another team decided to dress up as the ghost busters.Even dogs dressed up for the occasion, participating in a canine costume contest that was occurring next door. One dog sported a light pink ballerina outfit with a white tutu.   First-time observer Erik Bonesteel wound up at the event by following the crowd to the waterfront.”There’s a lot of people,” he said. “It feels like everyone from Burlington is here.”