Tualatin preparing for Pumpkin Regatta after missed year
This year's annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin is going to be special.
Although it's billed as the 14th annual Pumpkin Regatta, it comes after a gap year. Lucky number 13 was canceled with just two days to spare last year due to high winds, the remnants of a super typhoon impacting the Pacific Northwest, in the forecast.
The event will be held — weather permitting, of course — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Lake of the Commons.
"We have our fingers crossed for no wind this year," said Heidi Marx, an event specialist with the City of Tualatin, which organizes the zany community festival.
If you aren't familiar with the Pumpkin Regatta, it's exactly what it sounds like. The centerpiece of the festival is a series of races across the man-made lake in the heart of downtown Tualatin, featuring costumed paddlers in enormous hollowed-out pumpkins. (The great gourds are, appropriately, provided by the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers, which describe themselves on their website as "growers of obscenely large vegetables.")
The races are always conducted in four heats, featuring growers, sponsors, public agencies and community members who register for the event.
"This year, we've got fire versus police, which will be fun," Marx said. The Tualatin Police Department and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue will be raising money for the Tualatin Community Police Foundation with their race, she added.
While the city normally holds a lottery to select members of the public to participate in the fourth heat, Marx said it won't be doing so this year. Instead, anyone who had been picked for last year's race is eligible to enter.
"We felt really bad, because they were all so disappointed last year when we had to cancel … so we thought this would be a fair way to try to make it up to them," Marx explained.
The pumpkin-racing typically only takes up the last hour or so of the festival. Before that, a plethora of pumpkin-themed, family-friendly activities are held all around the Lake of the Commons. Particularly popular are pie-eating and costume contests.
Last time around, in 2015, an attraction called "pumpkin bowling" — again, exactly what it sounds like — was so popular that organizers plan to double the number of lanes this year, Marx said. Pumpkin golf, which challenges participants to hit a golf ball from the edge of the lake into one of several floating pumpkin baskets in the water, will also return.
The growers don't turn all of the giant pumpkins they produce into watercraft, either. Many bring their most impressive specimens to the Terminator weigh-off, another main attraction at the Pumpkin Regatta festival. In 2015, the weigh-off was won by grower Steve Daletas of Pleasant Hill, whose pumpkin weighed in at 1,794.5 pounds.
This year, a new category of giant vegetables will be added to the weigh-off: tomatoes, a crop that many people grow at home.
"We thought it would be fun because anybody can grow a giant tomato in their garden … so we're going to open it up to the community," Marx said.
The 2015 Pumpkin Regatta drew close to 20,000 people to the Lake of the Commons on a pleasant Saturday. Marx said the city is planning for about 15,000 to 17,000 this year, although she acknowledged the turnout may be greater or less depending on the weather.