October 5, 2014

At Big Red Regatta, Competitors Race in Pumpkins

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In Cornell’s first ever Big Red Regatta Relay Saturday afternoon, approximately 30 competitors raced pumpkins ranging in weight between 200 and 400 pounds across Beebe Lake.

The course was 100 meters across Beebe Lake, with each of the eight teams of four in their owne pumpkin, each big enough to hold one team member at a time, acrroding to Peter DelNero grad. Each team had a small wooden paddle and discussed strategies to keep the pumpkins from tipping over.

“First team members raced to the buoy, comes back and then the next team members gets into the pumpkin,” DelNero said to team members during the beginning of the race.

Chris Hernandez, grad  said his team;s goal was to keep their pumpkin afloat.

“Of the eight pumpkins, only one was big enough to float, which is why many teams were using life jackets to keep them afloat,” he said.

Before the relay started, John Smeda grad said he expected the pumpkins to spin.

“[Beebe Lake]” is shallow enough that you might be able to push yourself from the bottom with a paddle,” he said.

While all eight teams completed the relay, the first place team— the Canoelagans— did not use their pumpkin as a boat and instead walked through the lake in their pumpkin.

“We realized from the get go we would need to have a strategy because otherwise the boats would sink,” said Ithaca and Canoelagans team member Luke Whitlow.

Katherine Constas ’16 — a team member of the second-place team, Pump in the Sun said her group was “either walking or rolling [the pumpkin the entire time.”

“The pumpkins were full of water,” she said. “There was nearly no boundary between the boat and the lake.”

The only team that was able to stay in their pumpkin and baddle the entire time, Oogie’s Revenge, competed in costumes from the film A Nightmare Before Christmas. 

Gretchen Wall, program coordinator for the Produce Safety Alliance in the Department of Food Science, said competing in the race was a “great way to bring in the fall spirit.”

We played by the rules, and we had fun doing it.

—Gretchen Wall

“We played by the rules, and had we had fun doing it,” she said.

Lauren Gabuzzi ’16 said it was an “understatement” to say that she had fun while in her submerged pumpkin.

“I couldn’t stop smiling. The coldness burnt a smile into  my face,” Gabuzzi said.

Ileana Betancourt ’12, a staff member at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said she was “excited” to participate in the event.

:We don’t know a better way to bring in the fall than by paddling around Beebe Lake in a pumpkin,” she said.

DelNero said the pumpkin is the “enduring symbol of community and gratitude and well being.”

“The best part was seeing everyrone out here smiling, laughing and united under a common icon,” he said. “WE had people from all over campus racing pumpkins. We’re looking to grow bigger pumpkins next fear. For the first time, it couldn’t have gone better.

The event was hosted by Cornell Flotilla, a graduate student club.