Tualatin celebrates giant pumpkins in annual races this weekend

Times file photoThe West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta returns to the Lake of the Commons in Tualatin this Saturday, bringing with it a wet and wild good time for racers and spectators alike.

It's an unconventional sport, to say the least: Each year, growers from all across the state transport their supersized squash to the banks of the Lake at the Commons for a weigh-in and frantic scoop-out. Emptied pumpkins are surprisingly seaworthy, and intrepid oarsmen and women compete in one of several races around the lake’s perimeter — all while dressed in Halloween costumes.

Now in its ninth year, the event is expected to draw a crowd from across the Pacific Northwest and into Canada. Last year, racers came from as far away as Japan to compete.

The West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Tualatin Lake of the Commons, 8325 S.W. Nyberg St. .

Look for more coverage in next week's issue of The Times, but in the meantime, here is some advice from past racers and pumpkin growers.

Advice from last year’s victors

Times file photoBrent Savage, grower, first place in Grower’s Heat: Savage says it’s all about finding a stable pumpkin with a solid center of gravity.

“Don’t row it so that you’re taking on water. Make sure you have a big enough opening for exit, in case you need to bail. And get a good head start.”

Steve Daletas, champion grower, winner of last year's weigh-off (1,531.5-pound pumpkin): He urges new growers to take advantage of the community that has developed locally over the past 15 years — a community that is eager to share the lessons it's learned the hard way.

"(A new grower) can get in, and they don't have to make the mistakes we've been making for years."

Larry Nelson, grower: You only need a half-acre to grow one giant pumpkin, Nelson says. There's no secret: just hard work and luck. According to Nelson, growing a champion pumpkin is a numbers game. He typically grows a half-dozen, expecting the fastest growing pumpkin will likely split apart.

He typically pollinates his pumpkins around July, harvesting them soon before the race and hauling the largest to the competition. Last year, he boasted a 1,468-pounder.

Jim Sherwood, past president, Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers organization: Sherwood describes rowing a pumpkin in the Regatta as similar to "trying to paddle a barge around a lake."

Regatta Trivia

Times file photo• Mayor Lou Ogden regularly competes, often strapped with a camera to his fedora to film footage of the race, which is then posted to "LouTube," the city of Tualatin's YouTube channel.

• The record for heaviest pumpkin was a 1,778.5-pounder grown by Steve Daletas in 2012. It was transported to New York City and carved in public. Daletas was also last year's Terminator Weigh-Off champion, with a 1,531.5-pound entry.

• The Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue team has competed against Portland's Army Corps of Engineers every year for the past four years. Last year's Regatta was the first time TVF&R crossed the finish line first.

• Giant pumpkins are of the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin variety, a strain developed by Howard Dill of Nova Scotia.

• Pumpkin regattas are by no means common events. Other major pumpkin regattas include Damariscotta Pumpkin Fest's Giant Pumpkin Boat Regatta in Maine, New Bremen's Pumpkinfest Giant Pumpkin Boat Regatta in Ohio, and Windsor Pumpkin Regatta in Nova Scotia, Canada.


8 a.m. Pumpkins arrive

8:45 a.m. Regatta Run begins

9:30 a.m. Regatta Run awards ceremony, Main Stage

10 a.m. Terminator Weigh-Off

10:30 a.m. Mz Pearl's Variety Show

11 a.m. Costume contest

11:45 a.m. Mark Benthimer Magic Show

12:15 p.m. Village Inn Pie-Eating Contest

1 p.m. Mz Pearl's Variety Show

1:30 p.m. Council President Monique Beikman's Welcome, sponsor recognition

1:40 p.m. Tualatin High School Marching Band Pep Rally

2 p.m. Pumpkin races begin

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