Pumpkin_JN

JAKE NAUGHTON/Herald photo

The horticulture department and the Hoofers Sailing Club handed three items to students, faculty and Madison residents on Saturday morning: a carved-out giant pumpkin, an inner tube and an oar.

For the third year in a row, people used these items to participate in the third annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta on the shores of Lake Mendota outside Memorial Union Saturday.

The carved-out pumpkin was used for sitting, the oar for rowing and the tube kept the pumpkin afloat.

Dozens of people could not wait to get dirty, slimy and wet in the three giant pumpkin boats, grown and carved by the UW horticulture department and deemed seaworthy by Hoofers.

"We carve them out, leave as much slime in them as possible and put them on these tubes to try to make them as stable as possible — although that doesn't always happen," event coordinator and UW senior Robyn Donahoe said.

Neither Donahoe nor UW horticulture professor Jim Nienhuis ever weighed the giant pumpkins, which Nienhuis and the crowd helped name "Charlie Brown," "King George" and the "S.S. Squash."

"It really does take at least two people to lift them, especially that big one," Donahoe said of the pumpkin named "King George." "We've never had one that big before."

Watching people row and pirouette in the water was clearly entertaining for the more than 100 people who gathered at the shoreline.

"It's a circle, so you paddle one side and spin around, and you paddle the other side and spin around," Donahoe said. "It's quite comical."

Kids, such as 9-year-old Daphne Schigiel of Madison, participated in the races as well and enjoyed them — slime or no slime.

"It wasn't necessarily slimy," Schigiel said. "But you really slide around a lot."

Memorial Union staff enjoyed the afternoon and the giant squashes as well.

"It was really nice. The water was really warm," Memorial Union custodian Dick Baer said. "I've been wanting to do this for the past few years, and this is my last year here, so I'm glad I did."

Not only were the visitors entertained by the mere silliness of the event, Nienhuis' antics kept them laughing throughout the unusually warm October afternoon.

"Because there's no Badger game in town, this is basically the only sports action available, ladies and gentlemen," Nienhuis said to the crowd over his megaphone.

The professor, who grew the pumpkins himself, said he was craving some pumpkin pie as the event continued.

"Are you guys catching the aroma off these squash? Oh, god, it is just so fragrant, isn't it? There is something so special about it," Nienhuis said. "I don't know about you, but I'm getting hungry just watching these guys sail."

UW junior Steve Nystrand, who nearly tipped over into the lake, had a hard time skippering his pumpkin.

"It's hard to steer but it's fun … even though I thought it was going to flood for a while," Nystrand said.

Perhaps 9-year-old Dominic Vanderscheuren of Madison, who sailed in one of the kids' races, summed up the day's events best:

"It's really funny when they spin around and nearly fall over," he said.