Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Goffstown NH Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta

“Pull over, there’s a giant pumpkin in the river with a person sitting in it!” my wife said as we were passing over the Piscataquog River in Goffstown, New Hampshire. She had spotted a weird scene. Lo and behold there were several giant pumpkins on the river - and they appeared to be racing each other! We were in the mist of the Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta.

Jim Beauchemin is a volunteer organizer of the Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta.  I saw Jim’s license plate and I asked him, “What does 1,314 LBS mean?” He enthusiastically told me his giant pumpkin had won first prize at the 2005 Topsfield Fair and his plate number was the weight of his winning giant pumpkin.

Because of my glimpse at this unique parade of giant pumpkins on the Piscataquog, and Jim’s enthusiasm for this hobby/sport, I made it my quest to see this year's Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta "upfront and personal."

Here is my whirlwind tour of my two days at the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta:

The New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association (NHGPGA) Hosts the Weigh-off

o Front-end loaders carry the giant pumpkins for the weigh-off from their pallets to the scale.

o Jim Beauchemin was the narrator and skillfully kept the crowd’s enthusiasm throughout the weigh-off and educating them to giant pumpkin growing.

o Bruce Hooker of Belmont, NH was the winning grower. His pumpkin weighed 1,465 lbs

The Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Regatta is a Boat Race on the Piscataquog River

o There was a fear there would not be enough pumpkins for boats this year because an excess amount of rain in a short period of time this summer caused many giant pumpkins to grow too fast and split. Gratefully, several of the growers donated their giant pumpkins to the Pumpkin Regatta.

 At 2 pm the giant pumpkin boat building started

o Bruce Normand expertly guided the processes for boat building and river testing.

o The first boat building task is to use a plywood template and a power saw to cut a two foot or so diameter hole in the top of the pumpkin.

o Only the grower is allowed to remove the seeds from the giant, as the seeds can be very valuable. I heard anywhere from $800 to $1,600 per seed from winning giants.

o Bolts attach the plywood around the opening. The wood includes a spot to connect the electric motor.

o Each team has a boat theme. You will see their designs in my video.

Sunday morning each team is assigned a time to test their boats on the Piscataquog River

o The boats are ballasted with sand. Insufficiently ballasted boats tend to tip, or heel, and can result in capsizing.

o The electric motors and batteries were placed on/in the boat.

o The captains take the boats for a maiden voyage.

o This maiden voyage is as much fun to watch as the actual race. Some of the captains had never been in a giant pumpkin before, and you could feel the nervousness in the air.

o The support crews were tremendous with their encouragement and support for all contestants.

o Goffstown Fire and Rescue handled water safety. The Goffstown hydro dam is very near to the start of the race. To protect the captains in case of capsizing, two safety catch lines cross the river.

o The Goffstown Chief of Fire and Rescue reviewed the safety issues with all captains.

At 3 pm the Cannon Roared and Nine Giant Pumpkins headed toward the Goffstown Main Street Bridge

o With the Dam at their backs, a breeze in their face, and heading into the strong current, the boats aimed for the bridge finish line. Some of the boats swirled in circles, others seemed to be going downstream with the current, and a few, specifically the Goffstown News Harry Potter theme boat, kept river left and aimed straight at the bridge.

o The Giant Pumpkin Eater suddenly appeared upstream honking its horn with water hoses spraying the boats. Indeed some of the boats reciprocated with their own hoses. We had a Regatta “Battle of the Piscataquog” – all in fun.

o To entice the crowd, some of the boats used air- cannons to fire t-shirts into the crowd.

o The winner of the 2011 Giant Pumpkin Regatta was the Harry Potter Themed Boat of the Goffstown News. Actually, all the boat captains are winners. Meeting the challenge of steering a near-thousand pound pumpkin, seated on their battery with knees up, and reaching back in an awkward position to steer and throttle – showed me that there should be nine trophies awaiting all finishers of the Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

An international flare was present throughout the two days as a TV crew from Germany did interviews and videos.

Thanks to the support of the New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and countless sponsors and volunteers throughout Goffstown, the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta has become the signature event for Goffstown Main Street. I can’t wait to attend next year again.

I now will never have to say, “I wish I had watched the Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and Regatta”.

Steve’s latest book, Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, “I wish I had…” is now available as an e-Book at Kindle and Nook.


o Jim Beauchemin’s Discovery Channel DVD, “The Secrets of Growing Champion Giant Pumpkins”, is available at https://www.createspace.com/209048. It is an entertaining presentation with a wealth of information on growing giant pumpkins.

o http://www.facebook.com/notes/the-goffstown-news/excess-rain-lack-of-growers-cause-giant-pumpkin-shortage/10150410710915505

o http://www.unionleader.com/article/20111017/NEWS15/710179961

o New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association http://www.nhgpga.org/

o Goffstown Main Street http://www.goffstownmainstreet.org/

o Current World Record Giant Pumpkin is 1,810 lbs