Pumpkin Race

Pumpkin racing to hit the streets

by Guy Thompson

The race is on to find the fastest pumpkin.

A new event is planned for October 14 in Middlebury – a pumpkin race.

Middlebury resident Kim Clarke visited her son in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and got to see their pumpkin race. She said it started as a small event in a neighborhood, with about a dozen people participating. Now it’s over a thousand. The event is held as a fundraiser for an autism foundation.

“I thought it would fun here,” Clarke said.

She brought it back to the Middlebury Then and Now Committee, which jumped on the idea. “The tie-in with the Pumkinvine Trail is perfect,” committee member Darla Kauffman said. They began looking for a spot to hold the race, which sees pumpkins outfitted with axles and wheels to race down a sloped street. They also wanted to keep it close to the trail. West Warren Street was selected and the group received permission from the town to use the far west end of the road.

“What’s so great about this community is it is so tight-knit,” committee member Hannah Walsh noted. “It’s going to be fun to see everyone at the race having some family fun.”

Kits to turn pumpkins into speedy racers were expected to be available by mid-September, giving teams a month to prepare their best pumpkin. The track is 50 ft. long and pumpkins are timed. The kit comes with rules for how to set up a pumpkin.

“But we hope to get a cheater or two,” Clarke said.

If that sounds a little out of place for an event that is about family fun, don’t worry. It’s on purpose. The event allows for people to enter “cheater” pumpkins, those using other squash or watermelons, for example. However, the cheater pumpkins tend to have a messy demise, which is all part of the fun. See sidebar for “cheater” rules and racer tips.

As word has been getting out about the event, the committee has heard back from all ages interested in fielding a team. “Even my 80-year-old neighbor wants to do it,” Clarke said.

“The racing is great,” Clarke noted. “Pumpkins crash and fall apart. Wheels fall off. They lose decorations.  Some of them (pumpkins) are really fancy.”

Teams are encouraged to form early to get a kit and have fun with the whole experience. Highly decorated pumpkins and team members are pretty standard for the races.

Pumpkin racing has been catching on in other communities, with more than 100 so far. The races are held to benefit various autism foundations, either national or local groups. The Middlebury race will send its proceeds to the Autism Society of Indiana, which will keep those dollars in the area to support those with autism.

While the committee expects to see some fierce competitors, it really is, in the end, all for fun. “This is to bring the community together and have fun with it,” Clarke stated.

And it should prove just as much fun to watch, too.

You can find out more about pumpkin racing and upcoming events planned by the Middlebury Then and Now Committee on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MiddleburyThenandNow/.