giant pumpkin boats

An Elk Grove tradition returns to Elk Grove Regional Park’s lake on Oct. 6 when skippers race in giant pumpkin boats.

On the second and final day of the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival, speed and intensity matter in the festival’s second most important competition, the annual regatta that will take place at noon on Sunday, Oct. 6.

For the past 12 years, this one event has been one of the festival’s most popular events. What this event involves are “skippers” racing in giant pumpkin boats, each weighing hundreds of pounds, across the lake at Elk Grove Regional Park.

Some growers decide to enter their pumpkins the following day after the weigh-off. Some of them opt to row the pumpkins themselves, while others find a designated paddler, Cosumnes CSD spokesperson Jenna Brinkman said.

Before cutting the pumpkin, the growers place them in the water to see how it floats. A water line is marked and then they begin carving it and hollowing it out to prepare them for the race. The Pumpkin Regatta can hold up to 10 contestants.

The top three winners earn cash prizes ranging from $350, $150 and $100 for the first, second and third-place winners, respectively.

“You won’t see anything else like it!” Brinkman said.

Leo Salcedo, the winner of las year’s regatta, competed in multiple regattas before. He entered because his father-in-law, Scott Henkin, grows the pumpkins as well as takes part in the race, some of which he has won in the past.

Salcedo noted that he had beaten the streak of Robert Cook, who had won the regatta for four consecutive years. Henkin had won the regatta “about three times,” he noted.

Salcedo mentioned a mishap that occurred in the first regatta that he participated in, as the pumpkin he used sank “right away.”

“I got in the pumpkin, they started the race and I sunk after a couple of strokes,” he said. “The second time, I got second or third place, then I won last year.”

Salcedo plans to take part in the regatta once again, as his father-in-law entered him into it for this year.

“I’m going to try hard,” he said. “It depends on the pumpkin that you’re in. I could sink right away or if it floats really well, then I’ll keep going as hard as I can but it gets really hard towards the end.”

The defending champion noted that this race is a personal matter as he said this is a “Make stepfather proud” matter, because his stepfather is getting older and is still entering to participate in the event. He also noted that with Henkin and Cook having been the winners in the past, the regatta has played host to their rivalry.

Salcedo felt that he is doing it “for the family” to keep the tradition going.