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West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta was record setting and a sight to behold

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Pumpkin-grower Steve Daletas and his daughter Stacey Wiltermood pilot the UO/OSU combo 'Platypus' pumpkin during the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta.“I didn't know you could ride in a pumpkin,” one woman said to another as they walked around the perimeter of Tualatin's Lake of the Commons.

“Well,” replied her friend, “what did you think a pumpkin regatta was?”

It's a question whose answer wouldn't typically be obvious, and just over a decade ago, no one around town would have known how to respond. But, as the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta closed its 11th season on Saturday, learning the definition of a pumpkin regatta is now a rare necessity in Tualatin. In case you're still confused, however, a pumpkin regatta in this instance involves the hollowing out of giant pumpkins, which are then filled with one to two people, who attempt to paddle around a manmade lake, typically while wearing costumes.

Before any of that can happen, however, these giant pumpkins must actually be grown. Naturally, that is where the growers come in, and numerous participants from the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers rally to bring some of the best of their crops to the regatta — their third and final weigh-off of the season. Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Waldo, played by Tommy Del Greco, was found piloting a pumpkin at the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

“Growing them is really hard, though,” said Caroline Camparmo as her father, Maurizio, prepared to row in the grower's heat. “They get babied. They even have their own blankets and get tucked in at night.”

And for these growers, at least, who drove down from British Columbia, Canada, their pumpkins travel only on the finest memory foam, so as to avoid the possibility of cracking on the way. A cracked pumpkin is a disqualified pumpkin, and after months of growing and dedication, such risks aren't worth it.

As this was discussed, Maurizio, a self-proclaimed “pumpkin-rowing virgin,” was unaccounted for as his daughter surveyed the race. Eventually, she located him, capsized and in the water. Pumpkin rowing is not a sport one does with the intention of winning or smooth sailing.

“I can't feel my feet. Or my legs,” said Calli Halbert of Enumclaw, Wash., as she made her way back to land from her pumpkin. “I kept having to raise myself up, because it was wanting to capsize.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Pumpkin-grower Larry Nelson paddled hard to take first place in the Growers' Race across Tualatin's Lake of the Commons.

Although, of course someone has to win.

“I gave it all I had,” said Larry Nelson of Albany, who won the grower's heat. “Some pumpkins do row better than others — mine was a good one.”

But the best pumpkin at the regatta, at least by weight, was grown by Steve Daletus of Pleasant Hill. A giant pumpkin-grower for more than 20 years, Daletus set a new West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta record with a pumpkin that fit two passengers and weighed 1,719 pounds. Even so, he's humble about it, and seems hesitant to mention that his pumpkins have won in the past. Later, his wife, Susie, discussed how a couple years ago they were flown to New York because they grew the fourth largest pumpkin in the world.

“The weigh-offs, you know, we're all competitive. I think our goal is to always do better than we did the year before, but we get to see our buddies,” said Daletus, who grows pumpkins as a hobby but is a pilot by day. “It's a real tight community. For the most part, you know everyone, and it's like a reunion every year. You show up, and maybe you haven't seen them for a year, but you take up from where you left off the year before.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE  - Charity Marshall paddles in her seahorse pumpkin during the 11th annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta on Saturday.

The Daletus family has participated in the regatta almost every year since its inception, with its participants spanning several generations. On Saturday, Steve rowed with his daughter, Stacey Wiltermood, in a pumpkin they'd decorated with a duck head and a beaver tail.

“He's a Beaver fan, and I'm a Duck fan, and I told him I wouldn't ride in a Beaver pumpkin,” Wiltermood said. “So we split it down the middle. But, he turned it around at the end so the Beaver end would finish first — I didn't know he was going to do that.”

Later, the family rivals posed in the pumpkin with Wiltermood's life-jacketed 6-month-old son, Parker. Some traditions are best started early.

“I don't know if you ever perfect it,” said Daletus of giant pumpkin growing. “It's a lot of work. You've got a lot of hours

"This is the last weigh-off, so we're done with pumpkins, but tomorrow we'll start planning for next year.”

And in response to what makes it worth it?

“Days like today,” he said.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Professional 'Seed Extractor' Richard Raymond prepares the dragon pumpkin at the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta.

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