Pumpkinfest 2013

This years Pumpkinfest in Damariscotta was a huge success. Bigger than ever, it had more events, the community spirit that infuses it was very much in evidence. A good time was had by all!



Pumpkinfest is all about pumpkins. And it is mostly about giant pumpkins. The main reason Pumpkinfest started was to promote the growing of giant pumpkins, by teaching people how to grow them.



While the festival has grown with many events for the Columbus Day Weekend, the promoting of the growing of the giant pumpkins remains at the heart of it.

The weigh off does not have the tourist appeal of the carved and decorated pumpkins seen around the area. But, it actually is at the heart of Pumpkinfest. Damariscotta does not have a pumpkin or squash club. But, the weigh off is sanctioned by the GPC, the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. This is a world wide organization that promotes the growing of large pumpkins and squash, and sets standards for color, condition, and the weighing of them.

The weigh off for Pumpkinfest is the weekend before the Columbus Day weekend. Needing the pumpkins for the long weekend, they need to be weighed off prior to, not during, Pumpkinfest. This takes place at Pinkham’s Plantation, the headquarters for Pumpkinfest.



I headed down to the weigh off on Saturday.
When I arrived, there were a few pumpkins on pallets here and there.



Some were gorgeous!



Though early a few people were looking them over.



But, trucks were rolling in,
and the line of pumpkins began to grow!



Spot enjoyed the action!



Pumpkins are harvested as close
to a weigh off as possible,
so as not to lose water weight.

So, there was a lot going on right before the actual weighing took place!
Truck after truck arrived with giant squash!



When a squash or pumpkin arrives
the first order of business is getting off of the truck.



If the fruit is palleted it is relatively easy to get it out of the bed of a truck and moved.


Some arrived on the blankets
that had wrapped them while they were being grown.



Which meant there was a wrestling match to get the
pumpkin onto a pallet.



If the men can get straps under it
they can lower it to the pallet.



All of the squash were handled with care…
After all, these have taken months of work to produce!



Once on the fork lift,
the pumpkins and squash are ready to be moved to the line of pumpkins.



But, first they are tagged with the name of the grower.



Here they are measured for length and girth.



One squash was of a very different nature!
It was a long gourd!
This long gourd was 111.25 inches long.
The world record is 137.75″ in length!




The squash are weighed on large scales brought in for the occasion. They are alternated so that a pumpkin can be brought in while the other scale is being used for weighing. The weighing starts with some field pumpkins, and then goes to the youth squash, then youth pumpkins. Then volunteers’ squash, then the volunteers’ pumpkins are weighed, and it ends with the adult growers having their squash and pumpkins weighed. It is a lengthy process.


Photo courtesy of Pumpkinfest


The winner of the youth pumpkin weigh off was
Quinn Prentice
with a winning pumpkin of 441 lb.


Photo courtesy of Pumpkinfest


Edwin Pierpont won the pumpkin weigh off with a pumpkin
that weighed in at 1266 lb.
But, one of the most beautiful fruit there
was a huge squash with a beautiful uniform grey green color.


Photo courtesy of Pumpkinfest


This squash turned out to be not only beautiful,
but, at 1264 lb,
was the largest squash that has ever been grown in the USA!
It was also grown by Edwin Pierpont-
who must have had a very busy time in his pumpkin patch during the summer!




For the next five days there is not a lot going on with the pumpkins that one can see. The area gets decorated to the hilt with fall items, corn stalks decorate doorways, signs go up in town, and chrysanthemums are everywhere!



But, behind the scene there is a lot going on. The pumpkins are assigned to the sponsors and businesses who support Pumpkinfest. They are allotted to the business by how much they donate and how soon they sign up. So, the biggest pumpkin goes to the business that gives the most and signs up soonest. The donors are then told which pumpkin is theirs. Some have artists who go and look at their pumpkin, and decide which direction they want the pumpkin to face, and tag instructions on the pumpkin. Other pumpkins are designated for boats, the derby, and the smash.

The next thing that happens is the seed saving event. The seeds from the giant pumpkins are removed for drying and saved for the next year. Large plugs are cut in the flat sides of the pumpkins, the seeds are removed and cleaned, and the plug is put back into the pumpkin.



On Thursday there starts to be a buzz in the air. At 4 in the afternoon, The Deployment of the pumpkins on Main Street begins!


This year, I missed the beginning of it. But, around 5:15 headed down town, to be met at the center of Newcastle, by a traffic jam, in front of the Publick House (no, that is not a typo). I went up, around the Pub, and parked.



A large truck with two huge pumpkins was in front of the Pub.



One of the pumpkins was just about to be deployed!



The crane swung the pumpkin, lining the pallets up with the gate.



The owner of the Pub came out to make certain
it was going to be placed where they needed it to be.



It was lowered carefully, just fitting within the gate’s opening.



The pumpkin has arrived!



There was a huge pumpkin still strapped to the truck.
I asked Buzz Pinkham where it was going-
it was going to another pub,
King Eider’s Pub,
known as The Duck.

Spot and I decided to watch the Pumpkin Deployment
at The Duck
So, not waiting for the truck,
we headed across the bridge to Damariscotta.



People were walking the streets looking at the pumpkins and squash
that were already in place



In their natural state, without the decorating of them that would soon begin,
they are beautiful.



The streets were beginning to look very festive!



Everywhere one looked, there were pumpkins!



The truck with the last pumpkin to be deployed
came around the corner!





The truck pulled up in front of the Duck,
and everyone got ready to place this big boy.



Straps were placed under the pallet for lifting.



They were adjusted for length.



And the pumpkin was carefully lifted up.



People were pushed back behind lines,
as the crane swung the pumpkin clear of the truck.



There was some quick calculating
as to the route the pumpkin needed to take
to get it past the fence, lighting, and heaters,
to the desired location on The Duck’s porch.



Men guided it to control the swing as it rounded the front of the truck.



They also needed to position it the way the artist had instructed-
one side was specified as the front,
for the decorating of it.
After all, once in place, a 1000 lb pumpkin is not moving!



It was lowered into place,
and the straps removed.




The last pumpkin was in place,
the Pumpkin Deployment of 2013 was over!




During The Deployment one realizes what a community effort Pumpkinfest is. To get the pumpkins out into place on the sidewalks entails nearly the whole community. The growers have taken months to grow them and get them to Pumpkinfest. Other pumpkins for events are grown by farms around the area and donated. The lumber yard donates the truck, time, gas, and men place the pumpkins, and to later retrieve them. And out on the street volunteers drape the pallets in burlap.



This fun event takes time and planning,
and it runs so smoothly due to the time and effort
that people put into it.


Pumpkinfest is a tribute to what one or two people with an interest can accomplish.
Seven years ago Pumpkinfest was two men,
out in two pumpkin boats having fun.
Now the whole community joins in that fun!


So, a big thankyou to Bill Clark and Buzz Pinkham!




Friday of Pumpkinfest is a day of preparing. Pumpkins on Main Street are being carved, painted, and decorated. In back of the bank kids are building pumpkin cars for the Pumpkin Derby. Over at Pinkham’s boats are being built. And at home deserts are being baked for the Pumpkin Desert Contest and costumes for Saturday’s parade are being finished. In Damariscotta Mills the Fishladder Race is being readied for the Saturday race to benefit the Fish Ladder restoration project. Busy is the word for the day!

Damariscotta is fairly busy in the summer. But, during Pumpkinfest, the town goes from 2000 year round people to 20,000 – 30,000 people for the Columbus Day weekend!


This is the calm before the storm!


There was already a line into town
as I headed over to Pinkham’s to see how the boat building
was progressing.



A pumpkin boat in the making!



A pumpkin boat with the transom attached,
ready for action.



A hull for one of the newer type pumpkin boats was being readied.
As a news crew was interviewing Bill Clark, so I quietly left.


As I headed home there was a long line of cars heading into Damariscotta. The streets were full of people from away, all looking at pumpkins while artists worked away on them. It was going to be a busy, crowded weekend.




It is impossible to go to every event that takes place during Pumpkinfest. But, one of the things I always go to is the parade. I love small town parades! Anyone, anyone at all, can be in the Pumpkinfest Parade! Some years it is longer than others, some years there are more floats, others more animals. It just depends on what people want to do!



The parades started off with a big smile!



There were bands playing.



Hannafords, a major supporter of Pumpkinfest,
showed up in an old delivery wagon.



Buzz Pinkham was pulling the winning pumpkin.




Families and friends all were having a good time!




There were clowns.



A motorized pumpkin boat went by.



We had royalty- a first!



Love the purple pumpkins!



There was a pumpkin princess in a pumpkin coach.




Oakhurst Dairy, from Portland,
made an appearance in an old delivery wagon.



And the most wonderful, and heaviest, squash in the USA was there!



Different schools had teams handing out candy.



Pipers and drummers made music.



An ELF went by!



A dentist and his staff,
with a tooth and tooth fairy,
were handing out tooth floss!



More pipers, with kilts swaying in time to the music, strode by.



Some amazing street puppets were in town!



They came over to say “Hello”



The Legion Breakfast ladies were stirring up pancake batter,
and flipping pancakes!



The Spinners from South Bristol were there with their jumping rope routines-
which are amazing!



There were jugglers and unicycle riders.



The oil company sent mini oil trucks.



The Round Pond Lobster company sent a vintage truck.



A band,
and a woman with an amazing hoola hoop routine,
mesmerized everyone.



The van for the Pumpkin Smash made an appearance.



And a bunch of ghouls showed themselves.


Spot and I headed for home,
as the parade headed into town,
delighting everyone as it went.




Every year I try to go to an event that I have never gotten to. This year I decided to go to the Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest. I thought it would be rather boring. But, on a fine fall day it was pleasant, and really rather fun!

The contest is held when the tide is high, and beginning to pull out. This year it was at 8:00 AM. Saturday dawned cool, but calm, a good day for the contest!



The University of Maine Oceanics Department
sent up three teams of divers
with a submersible device.



Spot watched the contest!



After about twenty minutes there had some surface motion!



The first team came up, and swam to the dock
with their pumpkin.



They came up the boat ramp,
displayed their pumpkin.



None of us quite knew what to make of it!
Upon inquiry the “M” turned out to be for “mystery of the deep”.
The cutout with legs was supposed to be a lobster.
And I never learned what the square was for!



More waiting ensued, with people laughing and talking,
while the first team got out of their wet suits.



The second team surfaced.



Their pumpkin was placed for viewing.
This was Jaws!



It was quite some time before the third team came up.
The crowd was enjoying laughter and coffee.



Even from a distance one could see their pumpkin was quite elaborate!




A pipe attached to the stem held another small pumpkin,
Like an angler fish!
The cut out fins are an added touch!



A vote for best pumpkin was taken.



The winner was clear!


No one wanted there to be a loser,
so the divers decided to share their lobsters!


Photo courtesy of Pumpkinfest


The submersible device, which those of us watching did not pay any attention to, ran a feed to the movie theater. So, one could, if one wished, watch the event in the theater and see what really is going on.


Photo courtesy of Pumpkinfest


Perhaps next year I will do that…
though standing around watching from the parking lot
was one heck of a lot of fun!




For many people the Pumpkin Regatta is the high point of Pumpkinfest. And, after all, that is how it all started.

Eight years ago Buzz Pinkham and Billy Clark wanted to get people to grown giant pumpkins. Bill had some seeds, and Buzz had room in his greenhouse. The first year they grew 100 plants, and gave them away. They had a book “How to Grow Giant Pumpkins”; and in it there was a picture of a pumpkin with an outboard motor on it.

Buzz said, “Bill, we have got to do this.” And, Bill said- “I’ll grown the pumpkin, and make the boat. But, I am not getting into it.” Buzz said, “I’ll take care of that.”

They harvested a 754-pound pumpkin, Bill fashioned it into a boat, and they tried to sneak into town with that pumpkin. But a 754-pound pumpkin with an outboard motor on it, draws a crowd. And, that is how Pumpkinfest started!


Photo courtesy of Pumpkinfest


The Pumpkin Regatta has two divisions-
one for paddlers, one for motors.

But, before any racing starts,
first there is a shake down cruise.
There were three pumpkin boats entered in the motor regatta.



The two new style, super motor boats seemed fine!



But, the traditional pumpkin boat had a problem!
The motor stalled,
and would not start.



It was towed to the dock for needed repairs.


The paddle division consists of two parts. First there is a relay race. This consisted in three teams, of three paddlers each. For this they used boats provided by Pumpkinfest.

The second part is individual racers in boats of their own design.



There were so many people that it was hard to get clear shots of the race.
But, rounding the bouy, there was some definite rubbing!



The Seagull Boat was taking on water.



During the individual races, the lady who was dressed as a bride, (last year she was dressed as a princess.) was in a pumpkin boat of her own design. She designed a swan boat, but for some reason, wanted it to be going tail first. People gave advise, but she kept to her original plan of a backward swimming swan.



It was a tight group on the turn.



The Seagull Boat pulls away.



The bride shows some style with a paddle.



The boat seems to be having a problem!



And the bride capsized!



The bride swims to shore,
while the Swan Boat is toed to the dock.



The other contestants go for the gold!



The perfectly balanced round pumpkin is way in the lead!



There is quite a lot of commotion rounding the bouy!



But, once again, the Swan Boats design proves faulty.


The Pumpkin Regatta, Power Boat division had four contestants this year. There were three super power pumpkins and one traditional power pumpkin. The race consists of laps around the pumpkin buoys. While the paddle races are a lot of fun, for people who feel the need for speed, the power boat pumpkins were what they had been waiting for!



Two of the power pumpkins made a quick start from the dock,
with Buzz Pinkham in the lead.



The third boat had some trouble at the beginning of the race…
there is not a lot of freeboard in the stern!



The traditional power pumpkin also experienced some difficulty.



The two in the lead showed some serious attitude!



Trying to get back in the race!



Full steam ahead!



The three super power pumpkins were in a tight group
as they started the second lap.
The traditional power pumpkin is heading for the buoy.



The smaller of the three power pumpkins makes a run for it!



The traditional power pumpkin on its second lap.






On the third lap.
The smaller of the power pumpkins challenging for the lead.







Heading around the buoy, he almost swamps.



Still in the race, as he pulls ahead,
the larger pumpkin cuts in front of him,
and his wake swamps the pumpkin.



Buzz moves to second place.



A rescue boat arrives,
as the traditional pumpkin boat goes by,
bringing in one of the pumpkin buoys.




So, what do you do on a beautiful fall day
after a pumpkin regatta?
You head around the corner to a river.



And go up and down it.



After all, how many people get to go out in their very own pumpkin boat?





Pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins! Pumpkinfest is all about the pumpkin. This is not a Halloween celebration, though some of the decorated pumpkins have a Halloween feel. Pumpkinfest is just a fun thing that the town and area does that centers around pumpkins. Out and about one suddenly will come across pumpkins- some small, some large!



A home in the town had a small pumpkin vignette!



And on the Biscay Road a cheerful one eyed green monster waved!



A witch with a raven on her shoulder rode a black pumpkin horse.
Love the stockings and the brooms!



Last years bunny morphed into a mouse with cheese.



The cheese and tail gave it panache!



The real estate company had a witchy pumpkin house with Hansel and Gretel.



Small pumpkins formed a chimney and smoke.



Small pumpkins carefully decorated like candy and doughnuts added a lot of interest!



Smokey the Bear was there.



This pumpkin had a wonderful painting of islands with great blue herons.
But, what set it apart were the birds at the front of it,
made from gourds.



The River Grill did an amazing pumpkin
with their own variation of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.



It was complimented by a smaller pumpkin of fish-
there was one yellow one at the top.



Reny’s had a harvest scene with a large pumpkin turkey.




A pumpkin Mr. Potato Head totem pole stood near the Drug Store.



A pumpkin drinks pumpkin ale ( very popular )
while a pumpkin man contemplates the realities of life.




A cheerful pumpkin twinkles!



There was a shy puffin.



A school of wood burned fish are shown in relief.



A seal and turtle form an interesting design.



A winsome gold fish swims in a sea of blue.



Peapod Jewelry had a Princess and the Pea pumpkin,
an imaginative reference to their jewelry!



A unique carving. A starry eyed creature.




An almost over-looked vignette-
pumpkins with many mice going in and out of them
are surmounted by a black cat.



The bank had a pot of gold!



The Thai restaurant did a unique montage
of real leaves and ferns
embellished with painted flowers and a monarch butterfly!




A carved and painted pumpkin.



The General Store did a unique steam punk pumpkin liquid dispenser!




Two woodsy painted pumpkins sat next to each other.
The leafy one had a fox and a blue bird.



The pizza man did an amazingly detailed rendition of a pumpkin man eating pizza.



There was a wonderful Day of the Dead pumpkin.



A ballet dancer graced one of the restaurants.


There were many other pumpkins,
too many to show.

But, why don’t you make plans to come and see yourself?

After all, plans are already underway for
Pumpkinfest 2014!

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