Monday, October 1st, 2007
All pump(kin)ed up for a regatta
By Margie Wuebker
People watch from the banks of the Miami and Erie Canal in New Bremen, as contes. . .
NEW BREMEN - Sailing down the Miami and Erie Canal on a beautiful fall evening took on a new twist Saturday as the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers sponsored a pumpkin regatta.
The organization, which baked the world's largest pumpkin pie one year and dropped huge pumpkins onto vehicles with smashing success the next year, hit on a novel feature for its autumn festival.
The magic formula - horsepower + giant pumpkins + water = equals racing excitement - certainly pleased hundreds of spectators lining the banks of the historic waterway. At times it was difficult to determine whether onlookers or participants were having the most fun.
Tom Beachy, of Woodburn, Ind., swept top honors as well as bragging rights when his craft dubbed "The Green Goblin" crossed the finishing line ahead of Adam Homan in the Home Depot pumpkin and Dale Grillot in the Ohio State Buckeyes craft.
Beachy came to watch his friends race and decided to take part after receiving an offer he could not refuse. Chip and Heidi Brunst of Butler, Pa., brought two mammoth pumpkins for the weigh-off event but decided to take only the 10591/2-pounder home.
"I offered Tom the smaller one (8481/2 pounds) and he quickly accepted," Heidi says. "So we Pennsylvanians can take some credit for this Ohio win."
Beachy, along with the five other racers, worked feverishly behind the scenes making the pumpkins canal worthy. They removed the tops using a battery-operated saw and then scraped away the pulp by hand taking care to save all the seeds for next year.
"Playing in all this slop is a kid's dream," Grillot says. "This stuff may look like orange cotton candy but it's stringy and a lot less sweet. These seeds could be worth their weight in gold but we won't know until the next pumpkin season."
With the passenger compartment scooped clean, the next step involved putting on decorative tops cut from painted plywood. The designs ranged from Jeff Wells' sleek Miss Screaming Bremen to Brian "Elvis" Boroff's pink Cadillac.
Beachy quickly discovered the saw had run out of power as he attempted to cut a hole in the plywood that would serve as his craft's crowning glory. He simply reached for a hammer and banged out a design resembling a circle. Thankfully, the trolling motor had plenty of power to propel him
Greg Reynolds watched as his entry, The Jolly Reynolds, was lifted into the water. Sporting a pirate costume and an eye patch, he quickly hoisted a flag bearing a skull and crossbones and set sail.
He easily traversed the canal from Plum Street north to the newly painted Morrison Bridge joking with the crowd along the banks.
While he had few problems maneuvering the course, Boroff had trouble keeping his craft on a straight course. Pausing long enough to sweep back a lock of hair that escaped from his upswept pompadour, he sighed heaving.
"Look, Elvis is all shook up," one woman announced much to the delight of her silver-haired companions. "That boy is up the stream without a paddle. I think Elvis has left the race."
Announcer Spark Simon offered the entrants words of encouragement, noting they had already traveled further than any other pumpkin boats in the history of the famed canal.
Spectators repeatedly asked organizers what they planned to do next year to top the latest event. No one replied vocally but smiled broadly.
"You never know about these guys," Beachy says. "And you never know what they will come up with after a couple beers."