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Pumpkin paddlers to make a splash at first regatta in Shelburne

Tuesday, September 13th 2022, 3:07 pm - Annual Windsor regatta was cancelled indefinitely due to lack of water in Lake Pisiquid

Pumpkin paddlers rejoice: Nova Scotia hasn't seen its last pumpkin regatta.

The annual event that transforms giant gourds into personal vegetable crafts to be raced in water will take place in Shelburne, N.S., next month.

The regatta is usually hosted in Windsor, N.S., during the Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival, but organizers announced Wednesday that it was cancelled indefinitely due to lack of water in Lake Pisiquid.

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Val Kean, the community development co-ordinator for the Municipality of Shelburne, said she contacted the Windsor organizers in the spring, when it became apparent their lake would remain empty.

She said they gave her their blessing.

"I'm very excited to get this off the ground here in Shelburne and hopefully we can do it some justice and make Windsor proud," Kean said Saturday.

The last pumpkin regatta in Windsor was held in 2019, a smaller event that almost didn't go forward after a poor growing season. The 2020 and 2021 regattas were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial gathering restrictions.

maura-macumber/Anjuli Patil/CBC Maura Macumber is seen paddling her vegetable craft at the annual Pumpkin Regatta in Windsor, N.S., in 2019. A regatta will now be held in Shelburne. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

The event in Shelburne will be held on Oct. 8 as part of the Shelburne County Giant Pumpkin Festival.

Kean said the race will take place in Shelburne's harbour, between the waterfront and Islands Provincial Park.

"We're pretty confident we can make it work. I mean, Shelburne has a world-class harbour so we want to make use of that," she said.

She said the event will be smaller than past regattas in Windsor, as the community gets "our pumpkins wet, so to say."

Danny Dill, the owner of the Dill Family Farm in Windsor, will supply five oversized pumpkins for the race.

His family has been providing the giant gourds since the regatta's inception in 1999.

Dill said he feels good about Shelburne taking on the regatta.

"It's like we've passed the torch, so to speak," he said.

baptiste-dignac/Anjuli Patil/CBC Competetor Baptiste Dignac of France is seen rowing his giant gourd in Lake Pisiquid in 2019. Five paddlers are expected to compete in the regatta in Shelburne next month. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Kean said because they'll only have five pumpkins, five "enthusiastic" community members were asked to be paddlers in the race.

She said everyone who was asked, immediately said yes.

"Well, as Danny said, you need three ingredients. We have the pumpkins, we have the water and we've found some crazy rowers," she said.

She said spectators could still get a chance before the race to try rowing one of the pumpkins.

'Good little harbour'

Dill said it's bittersweet the regatta will no longer take place in Windsor.

"It's definitely a loss for Windsor. I mean, the restaurants — on the outskirts, everywhere — were jam packed," he said.

"Their sales outdid Mother's Day when you get an influx of 10,000 people coming in and you know, they did well. The vendors did record sales on the waterfront."

pumpkin-regatta/Stephanie vanKampen/CBC Paddlers are seen during the 17th annual pumpkin regatta in Lake Pisiquid in 2015. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

But, he said, Shelburne has a "good little harbour" that can handle the equipment needed to move the pumpkins and plenty of space for spectators.

"[We'll] see how it goes for them, and hopefully it'll grow much bigger down there for them," Dill said Saturday. "I mean, it's a great fall attraction."

Kean said some details are still being finalized before the regatta is officially announced, but from what she's heard around the community, people are looking forward to the event.

"Most people I've talked to have been to the Windsor regatta and experienced that, so they're really excited to see Shelburne flourish with this festival," she said.

The story, written by Cassidy Chisholm, was originally published for CBC News on Sept. 11, 2022.

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