I was reading up about pumpkins recently, trying to understand why they're associated with Halloween (a season not celebrated in South Africa, where I grew up), and learn more about them. What intrigued me were all the things people use them for - not just as food, or for carving lanterns and gargoyles.
The most intriguing thing was pumpkin racing - on water! It seems this is a big sport in some Northern states, but I'd never heard of it before. My interest was sparked by the story of a man who's paddling 150 miles down the Wisconsin River to raise money for charity. He's shown here winning a pumpkin race last year.
Rich "JR" Hildebrandt is always looking for ways to raise money for the Tri-City Children's Dream Foundation Inc., a Nekoosa organization that grants dreams to children with special needs.
His latest venture is to paddle an 800-pound pumpkin down the Wisconsin River from Nekoosa to Prairie du Chien. He started his trip Monday and will go through the Portage area this week.
Along the way, Hildebrandt said he hopes people will donate to raise funds for a new project for the foundation. The trip works out to be about 150 miles, which he figures will take about eight days. He has eight stops along the way, and he said he hopes people seeing the pumpkin or hearing about the trip will make donations to the group at each stop.
At 8 a.m. Thursday, the pumpkin will leave River's Edge Resort in Wisconsin Dells to set out for the Portage area and then to Hooker's Resort near Poynette. He will stay overnight there.
The Tri-City Children's Dream Foundation has sent special children to Walt Disney World and to NASCAR races. Hildebrandt and the foundation's board of directors now want to expand to build a special children's dream retreat, a place where the children and families can go to get away from the day-to-day routine and enjoy family time together, but not have to worry about any cost. The projected cost of the retreat is about $1 million.
Apparently Mr. Hildebrandt has hollowed out his giant pumpkin sufficiently to contain a propane heater, because it's cold on the river at this time of year. No word on whether this results in his sailing along in a slowly cooking pumpkin pie!
Best of luck to you, Mr. Hildebrandt!
Reading further, I was fascinated to find that pumpkin racing is a widespread sport. Here's a CNN report providing more information:
And here's a demonstration of how tricky it can be (not to mention downright competitive!):
To each his own . . . but I think I'll stick to regular boats, thank you very much, and buy pumpkins for internal rather than external use!