Racing with Ginormous Pumpkins in Sugar House Pond
Nov 06, 2015 12:31PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
By Elizabeth Suggs
The sun shone bright on Oct. 17 as both growers and non-growers came together for the fifth annual Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta at Sugar House Park.
Following the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off at Thanksgiving point on Sept. 27, the Ginormous Pumpkin Regatta was held by Giant Pumpkin Growers Association of Utah and Mountain Valley Seed Co. as participants, both members and non-members, raced across the Sugar House Pond in three heats and a final round. Travis Evans, pumpkin grower, won the race.
“It’s a six-month hobby,” Evans said. “We’re trying to have fun in different ways.”
Dressed as Darth Maul from “Star Wars,” Evans’ paddle, a light saber, stayed true to the theme. He has grown pumpkins for seven years and has participated in two pumpkin regattas, always dressed up. His most embarrassing costume, according to Evans, was his spandex-tight ninja turtle suit.
“If you’re going to carve out a 1,000 pound pumpkin to climb inside and row around,” Robb Baumann, part of Mountain Valley Seeds, said, “what else would you wear?”
Costumes worn at the event included Johnny Appleseed by Kyle Fox, committee head of Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers, Baumann as Captain Crunch and Indy Heaton, a pumpkin racer, dressed as a chicken.
“I’ve raced the last two years,” Heaton said, “but this is the smallest pumpkin I’ve ever used.”
Heaton raced with his father, Lance Heaton, who was dressed as a hippie. The pumpkin weighed in at 540 pounds, smaller compared to many of the other pumpkins, which weighed between 800-1000 pounds.
According to Baumann, everyone who participated in the race regatta weighed their pumpkins at either the Thanksgiving Point Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off or through the first-ever pumpkin weigh off at Hee Haw Farms in Pleasant Grove.
Hee Haws Farms’ first place prize went to Chad Black, pumpkin grower, at 1090 pounds. While happy with the prospect of winning, Black calls his victory “bittersweet.”
“We expected [the pumpkin] to be bigger,” Black said.
Despite a bittersweet ending, Black didn’t participate in this year’s regatta. Instead, he gave up his pumpkin to a friend after the friend’s pumpkin died.
“He loves to row,” Black said. “So, I let him use mine.”
At the event, several pumpkin growers were without pumpkins due to cracks and damages. Cracks, according to Matt McConkie, a pumpkin grower, happen if the pumpkin grows too fast.
“You can get them to grow up to 50 pounds per day,” McConkie said, though on the Utah Pumpkin Growers website it says up to 25 pounds per day.
Whether it’s 25 or 50 pounds, according to Utah Pumpkin Growers website, “slow and steady wins the race.” The problem with size or growth rate might have something to do with fertilization, according to the site. Too much fertilizer will speed the process too quickly. All that’s needed, according to the site, is better soil and lots of organic matter.
“The most difficult part of pumpkins,” Evans said, “is growing pumpkins and keeping them alive.”
Since April, Evans had been growing his pumpkin. His pumpkin, named Reggie, was 872 pounds.
“We really just want to row some pumpkins,” Baumann said, “and let the community come out and have a good time.”
Every year, a week after the pumpkin race, Hee Haw Farms holds a pumpkin drop. And, on Nov. 26, there will be “Feast with the Beast” at the Hogle Zoo for elephants. But, according to Fox, more events will come soon.
“We’ve got a few things up our sleeves,” Fox said. “Things that have to do with airplanes.”
If interested in growing or donating pumpkins, make sure to stay active on the Utah Giant Pumpkin Grower Facebook page or website, and keep up-to-date with Fox’s Youtube channel, “Kyle C Fox.”