It was all ships and sails in Damariscotta, Maine, Monday except the ships were actually pumpkins competing in the town’s seventh annual Pumpkin Regatta.
The Regatta, in which brave, or crazy, competitors board pumpkins powered by either engines or paddles to compete for a plastic trophy with a pumpkin on top, was the culmination of the town’s 10-day Pumpkinfest, an extravaganza of pumpkin derbies, pumpkin-eating contests and pumpkins as art.
“Pumpkins line the streets and area artists turn the pumpkins into a work of art,” Pumpkinfest volunteer Robin Marey told GoodMorningAmerica.com. “You can’t walk a step without bumping into a 500-pound pumpkin that’s a work of art.”
The thousands of spectators who invade the town of Damariscotta, population around 2,000, each year always stay for the main and final event, the Regatta, which was started 10 years ago by three curious locals who found themselves with giant pumpkins on their hands.
“It was three guys who said, ‘I wonder what we should do with these? I wonder if they’ll float,’” Marey said. “So they hollowed them out, put an engine on them, took them down to the cove and sure enough, they did float.”
The regatta has taken place every year since in a cove off the 19-mile long Damariscotta River. This year’s regatta had eight pumpkins competing in total, four in the Power Division and four in the Paddle Division.
The powerboat champion was Christian Rioux, a U.S. Merchant Marine from Brunswick, Maine, according to Marey. Tim Smith, a five-time champion from Boston, was crowned once again as the top pumpkin paddler.
Coming in third place in the Paddle Division was a woman dressed in a white, bridal-style gown.
“I made that beautiful white swan boat, and I found this dress and I just had to wear it,” the woman, Jaja Martin, told local ABC affiliate WMTW.
Martin’s racing ensemble is indicative of the only rule of the Pumpkin Regatta, which is, according to Marey, to have fun.
“Anybody can race,” she said. “If you show up in the morning with a life jacket, you can race one of these pumpkins.”
Damariscotta’s reputation, for 10 days at least, as Pumpkin Town, USA, would make one think that the town was known for its locally harvested pumpkins, or that there was something in the soil in Damariscotta that made for epic pumpkins.
That, however, is not the case.
“We’re actually known for our oysters,” Marey said. “It just so happened that these three friends grew these big pumpkins one year and that was it.”