Robert Cook, a veteran giant pumpkin boatsman, won his seventh championship at the giant regatta held on the final day of the 25th annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.
This Oct. 6 race had a mix of veteran “skippers” and newcomers who rowed boats made from giant pumpkin shells across the pond at Elk Grove Regional Park. The name of the game was to be the first to row across the lake to the dock in order to retrieve a racing flag from festival mascot Peter Pumpkin or Cosumnes Community Services District Director Rod Brewer. Skippers then had to return to the starting line that was near Strauss Island. Two racers didn’t quite make it and they ended up sinking into the emerald-green water.
One of the first-timers was the second-place winner, Elk Grove’s own Robert Davis. He entered the competition at the last minute as his wife, Brittany saw an announcement and also worked with Brian Myers, a longtime host of the event. Davis noted that prior to the regatta, the pumpkin he sailed was donated by Myers who grew the pumpkin.
Even for his first time taking part in this event, Davis felt it was an “awesome” experience, and that it was a lot harder than he initially expected and that it felt like he would tip over after every single paddle.
“It was 100 percent a struggle,” he said.
Davis also noted that if he were to grow a pumpkin, he will do this again.
This year’s winner came close the previous year as he came in at second place. Cook had won the race four consecutive times 2014 to 2017. He had three-year intervals between his first, second and third victories as he entered and achieved victory in 2008 and won his second regatta in 2011. Cook got the lead in the early-going of the race.
“Everything is hard to do when you have so many people swinging paddles at your head,” he said.
The third place winner was Mike Prager of Ontario. He currently holds the San Bernardino County record for the biggest pumpkin as it weighed in at 965 pounds. He also ranked at 14th place in the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off.
This was also his second time competing in the regatta. He noted that it’s “harder than it looks,” and that winning is secondary to survival. He had entered the contest because his friend and fellow participant, Kevin Donahue of Mission Viejo, had entered, too.
Because he achieved third place overall, he felt “accomplished and satisfied.”
He felt that he did better this time around and got into the Top 3. With him moving up from the rankings he achieved, he said that he was confident in doing better in future races.
“You only live once, you know,” Prager said. “And this is living.”