October 23, 2009
Pumpkin Regatta frosty but fun

GOFFSTOWN - There was snow.  There was wind.  There was rain.  There was temperatures in the 30's. But still there were pumpkins. 

The Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Regatta -- in which people from town race boats built from pumpkins in the Piscataquog River -- attracted a healthy crowd yesterday, despite dreary weather.

"This is not ideal weather, but I think it says something about New Englanders and Goffstown residents in general that they came out," said Robbie Grady, director of the Goffstown Main Street Program, which runs the event each year.

> VIDEO:  Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off & Regatta 2009 - Part 1
Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off & Regatta 2009 - Part 2
Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off & Regatta 2009 - Part 3

Ten giant pumpkins were cut open, had their innards removed, and were turned into boats -- complete with motors. The contestants, who wear costumes and decorate their boats, then race their contraptions along the river, under a bridge, around a buoy and back to the bridge again. 

Head of the Charles, eat your heart out.

Lori Davis won the regatta in a Catwoman-themed boat representing the Goffstown Lion's Club.

After a winner is declared, there is usually a good deal of horse play, and this year was no different. Boaters soaked one another using water guns, and the Pumpkin Eater boat -- a tremendous pumpkin that shoots water -- made its usual appearance.

Last year's champion, Police Chief Patrick Sullivan, lost his chance for a repeat early on when he fell into the river. He was promptly pulled out by members of the fire department, and watched the race from the sidelines for a while despite being soaked in such chilly temperatures.

"I wanted to see who was following suit," Sullivan said after the race. "The fire chief took a hit for me." 

Chief Richard O'Brien was the second boater to land in the river after taking on water as he and other boaters squirted each other with hoses and water guns. O'Brien, who wore a wetsuit, was promptly pulled out of the chilly water by his firefighters.

Despite going for an unplanned swim, Sullivan said he'll be competing again next year. "It's all in good fun," he said.

Bruce Normand, chairman of the promotion team for the event, launched the boats at the start of the regatta. He said the competitors helped make the event a success, despite the snow.

"They just went out there and put on a good show," he said. "It's 37 degrees and it snowed and rained, but we made the best of it." 

Scott Gross, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, competed for the first time, wearing a clown costume in a boat painted like a circus tent.

"It was a ton of fun," he said, adding that a wetsuit kept him warm. "It was a challenge with the weather."

Mike French, a former police chief and the longest-running competitor, dressed as a bottle of French's mustard and represented the Rotary Club, which brings its wiener-mobile through town to sell hot dogs and bologna sandwiches.

"There was a lot of water play," French said. "Everybody's a good sport to get out here in the 30-something degree weather and do this." 

French also praised the pumpkin growers for giving up the fruits of their labor so the race could happen each year.

Grady, with the Main Street Program, said she did not hear any complaints from the crowds.

"Given the weather, and what people are going through with the economy, I think that's nice, to see smiles," she said.


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