The Hippo


May 25, 2020








Floating down the river in pumpkin boats. Courtesy of Michelle Trull Photography.

Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off & Regatta

When: Saturday, Oct. 15, and Sunday, Oct. 16 (weigh-off is Saturday at 11 a.m.; regatta is Sunday at 3 p.m.)
Where: Downtown Goffstown and the Piscataquog River
Cost: Free admission. Registration for the 10K will be $30 in advance and $35 on the day of for adults, $25 in advance and $30 on the day of for youths ages 17 and under, and free for the Kids Pumpkin Dash, which is open for kids ages 11 and under. Other activities may require a small fee.

Race of the pumpkins
Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Regatta returns

By Matt Ingersoll

 It was the year 2000 when Jim Beauchemin of the New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association reached out to the Goffstown Main Street Program with a fun way to use the last of the pumpkins they’d grown that season.

“I had this idea that we’d convert them into boats and race them down the [Piscataquog] river,” Beauchemin said with a laugh.
The Main Street Program ran with the idea, and now every October, during the weekend after Columbus Day, the Goffstown Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Regatta takes place, featuring a talent show, a pumpkin bake-off, kids’ slingshot competitions and more. It has become the signature annual event of the Main Street Program, and this year’s festivities will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, and Sunday, Oct. 16.
“The town had actually been looking to create an event to make Goffstown an attraction,” Beauchemin said. “They loved the idea, and it’s been growing every year.”
Kicking off the event on Saturday in downtown Goffstown will be several kids’ games, including a slingshot competition using apples, Beauchemin said.
“There will be moving targets in the Piscataquog River and kids will line up on the guardrail and compete to hit the targets,” he said.
A pumpkin-themed bake-off will also take place, as well as a chicken barbecue, and several local food vendors will be selling fair foods like fried dough and cotton candy.
Don’t miss the weigh-off at 11 a.m., when dozens of pumpkins will be entered to win a prize for the heaviest.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, the pumpkin boat building will begin.
“Everybody always comes to see that,” Beauchemin said. “Myself and usually two to three designated boat builders do the carving and cutting them open for the contestants. … There are usually 10 pumpkins that get made into boats.”
Each pumpkin boat is represented by a sponsor and three of them are routinely given away — one to the Goffstown Police Department, one to the Fire Department and one to the Board of Selectmen. A member of the Goffstown Main Street Program also takes the helm of one of the pumpkin boats. Beauchemin said local nonprofits and businesses are normally given their own boats as sponsors.
“We call [the boat riders] the captains, and they do their own decorating on Saturday,” Beauchemin said. “They bring all of their own decorations and we have a trophy that goes to the best-decorated pumpkin called the Jim Beauchemin Award. … That will get presented on Sunday, but the winner will be determined by the end of the day on Saturday.”
The pumpkin boats will then be guarded in a protected area overnight Saturday before being brought out early Sunday morning for a test run at 7:30 a.m. 
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into it … The giant pumpkins are buoyant, and so a 1,000-pound fishing bob in the water needs to be balanced,” Beauchemin said. “We put sand inside the pumpkin so it settles down inside the water like a ship. Sometimes we have to put 200 pounds of sand into the boat to make it balance in the water.” 
He said that as a rule, pumpkins need to already weigh at least 700 pounds in order to be suitable as boats.
Beginning Sunday at 8:30 a.m. will be the second annual Goffstown Pumpkin Regatta 10K Run, along with the Kids Pumpkin Dash at 10:15 a.m. 
Beauchemin said an annual favorite with the kids is the Giant Pumpkin Drop, happening Sunday at noon. A crane will lift a 1,000-pound pumpkin up to 80 feet in the air before dropping it into the town pool.
“It shatters into a thousand pieces, and the kids just go crazy picking up the seeds and the chunks of pumpkin,” he said. “We have a countdown and everything — they just can’t wait.”
Also happening Sunday afternoon will be the 50/50 mini pumpkin race at 2 p.m., in which people can pay $5 to claim one of 600 tiny pumpkins that will be numbered and sent into the Piscataquog River. The owner of the pumpkin that crosses over the dam first wins half the proceeds in cash.
The regatta will then kick off at about 3 p.m. Beauchemin said the race goes by quickly, taking only about 5 to 7 minutes. The winner will receive a traveling trophy,
“[The race] goes down a wide section of river, so it’s pretty calm, not what you might think of as swift-moving water,” he said. “It spans right over the center of Goffstown, so thousands of people will line the riverbanks. … We have a launch site on the dam, so the race is actually upriver and it goes about 300 yards.”
Several other features are planned for both days, including wagon racing, pony rides, hot air balloon rides, a pie-eating contest and more. 
All of the proceeds will benefit the Goffstown Main Street program.

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