BY Meghan McCaffrey Contributing Writer
---- — The Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Pumpkin Regatta at Lakefront Park on Sunday. Many people came to see the spectacle of people paddling oversize pumpkin “boats” on Otsego Lake.
The day began with people carving the pumpkins and decorating them for the race.
Chad Welch, one of the racers representing Smith Ford in Cooperstown said he and his family cut open their pumpkin with a reciprocating saw and then hollowed it using a garden spade and a ladle. This proved to be heavy work as the pumpkin had originally weighed in at 816 pounds.
After testing the pumpkin in the water, Welch said the pumpkin was still, “So heavy. I had to take some of the weight out.”
The tractor was sent into the water to fetch his pumpkin. Then Welch once again dug out some of the pumpkin “guts” in order to make the opening bigger and then joined his competitors in the water.
The pumpkins were loaded into the water via tractor, which for some kids was the highlight of the day.
When Suzanne Furman of Oneonta asked her 3-year-old son, Sawyer, what his favorite part was he said,
“He wanted to see the tractors loading the pumpkins into the water,” Furman said.
This was their 3rd year attending the race.
“It’s a nice family event outside, although the weather always seems to start out sunny and then it becomes questionable,” Furman said about the increasingly cloudy skies.
Though there were a few raindrops the rain held off for the event.
“We managed to make it through without the rain,” said Patricia Szarpa the executive director of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce. “People were very excited and happy” at this event she said.
Szarpa also said that Sunday’s Pumpkinfest events hosted “more of a local crowd,” then the weigh off on Saturday.
There were three separate races on Sunday morning.
The winner of the 1st race was Courtney Younce, representing the Country Inn and Suites in Milford. Mary Grose came in 2nd place representing Carbone Auto in Utica, Paulina Tompkins came in 3rd representing Gordon B. Roberts, an insurance company in Oneonta, and Art Bowden came in 4th for New York Pizza of Cooperstown.
Wende Edderts won the 2nd race for Community Bank followed by Chad Welch in 2nd representing Smith Ford in Cooperstown, Scott Barton got 3rd place for Hickory Grove and Matt Vershneider, who’s pumpkin filled with water, represented the NYS Giant Pumpkin Association and came in 4th place.
The 3rd race was just for people representing local business and was championed by Mary Grose. Paulina Tompkins got 2nd place followed by Wende Edderts in 3rd place and Chad Welch in 4th place.
Welch said he’s competed in every Pumpkin Regatta in Cooperstown in the last 8 or 9 years, except one he missed because of a wedding.
“I’ve won a few times, I’ve come in 2nd a few times and I’ve sunk a few times. It’s always a surprise,” Welch said.
“A lot of times it’s just the luck of what pumpkin you race,” he continued.
Welch said he races because it’s fun and it’s a great community event.
“I try to support the Chamber in doing things to promote businesses here in town,” Welch said.
“I sacrifice myself for the benefit of the community to laugh at,” he continued with a smile.
Mary Grose, the winner of the 3rd race said she was nervous to do the race and her main goal was to finish the race dry.
Grose, who has been working at the Harley Davidson dealership owned by Carbone Auto Group for 8 years, said she would definitely do it again next year.
Grose was awarded with a bat from Cooperstown Bat Company and a ceramic pumpkin for winning.
Grose did crew in college and does a lot of kayaking now.
“I thought it would be similar but it’s more about balance,” Grose said. “It’s definitely a lot harder than kayaking.”
“I can’t wait for next year,” Grose said. “It was fun, more fun than I thought it would be.”