Giant pumpkin boat race canceled, due to COVID concerns

Citizen file photo

The Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin festival traditionally held a race where ‘skippers’ race boats made from giant pumpkin shells.

By Cameron Macdonald

Citizen News Editor

The Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival is returning to Elk Grove Regional Park on Oct. 2-3, but one of the festival’s popular traditions was recently canceled.

Organizers from the Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) last week decided to not have the giant pumpkin regatta on Oct. 3. In this competition that debuted in 2009, “skippers” are challenged to row boats that are carved from the shells of giant pumpkins that were entered in the festival’s produce weigh-off contest.

The CSD staff canceled the Sunday afternoon event at the park’s lake since the race is likely to attract a large concentration of onlookers. The festival staff determined that such a gathering would be too risky during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s an event that basically leads to a lot of congregating in tight spaces, even though it’s outdoors,” said Mike Dopson, the CSD’s recreation and community services director.

Last year’s festival was canceled, due to concerns over hosting a large outdoor gathering in the pandemic’s first year. COVID vaccines were not available to the public last October when the festival would have been held.

The CSD instead held the giant pumpkin and produce weigh-off contests in a small, invitation-only event at Elk Grove Regional Park.

Dopson told the Citizen that his staff is working to have a scaled down version of the giant pumpkin festival this year. There will be fewer vendors and activities booths than in past festivals, he said. Inflatable attractions, such as bounce houses and hand-contact games, will also not be at the festival.

As per state and Sacramento County health guidelines, attendees will be advised to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. Handwashing stations and requested masks will also be available at the festival, the CSD staff said.