Tricks and treats highlight inaugural Great Vernon Pumpkin Classic

October 28, 2019

The concept seemed simple: grow giant pumpkins, hollow them out and race them on Okanagan Lake. But what more than 500 spectators got to witness at Kin Beach on Saturday was nothing that could be described as simple.

“It was a great show,” said Angeline Chew, manager of Tourism Vernon. “This was our first time hosting the Great Vernon Pumpkin Classic. We anticipated a few dozen spectators for the race, but when several hundred people lined the shoreline we were thrilled!”

Six giant pumpkins hit the water and paddlers spent more time trying to get into their rolling boats than they did actually racing. The winning paddler was Aiden McWinny, racing a pumpkin grown by Greg Meshen.

“The race was the cornerstone event for Vernon’s Fall Festival,” said Christy Poirier, manager of Communications & Grants for the City of Vernon, “and it drew several guests to the area for the whole weekend. I heard about families travelling in from all over the Thompson Okanagan region from Penticton to Kamloops. But the group that sparked the most conversation was the camera crew from South Korea.”

EBS Documentary spent two days in Vernon, capturing the inaugural event and highlighting different portions of the Fall Festival as part of its World Travel Theme segment. Host JW Lee also joined the race.

“The success of this event could not have been possible without the support of our sponsors, families, friends and community members,” said Chew. “It was because of the tireless work of so many that we had a prime opportunity to showcase our region and the great things happening in Vernon year-round. We also appreciated seeing so many familiar local faces in the crowd.”

The Great Vernon Pumpkin Classic started with a giant pumpkin weigh in last weekend, with the winner coming in at 785 Ibs. It was co-sponsored by John Deak Realty and a race safety canoe, paddles and wetsuits were provided by Elements Adventures. Following the race, the pumpkins were composted or sent to the bunny and donkey sanctuary for yummy autumn treats.

For those planning to take part in the 2020 race, Chew recommends starting giant pumpkin seeds indoors in January, transplanting them outside after the last bit of frost disappears in the spring.

Photo credit: Heath Fletcher for Tourism Vernon