Giant pumpkin regatta to go ahead in Shelburne despite poor growing season


Don’t fret pumpkin paddlers and spectators: the Municipality of Shelburne will be holding its second annual giant pumpkin regatta next weekend, despite a rainy growing season yielding smaller fruit.

The annual event that transforms giant gourds into personal watercrafts to be raced in the Shelburne harbour is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, during the county’s Giant Pumpkin Festival.

“It’s a great opportunity, I think, for the community to come together and to celebrate, especially after what Shelburne County’s been through with the wildfires,” said Robin Smith, a community development co-ordinator who’s helping organize the event.

Smith said the municipality has secured seven giant pumpkins that will be used in the regatta. 

At least five of those pumpkins will be coming from Danny Dill at the Dill Family Farm in Windsor, N.S.

Danny Dill, the owner of Howard Dill Farm in Windsor, N.S., said a dry May and wet summer led to a poor growing season for giant pumpkins. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Dill said the giant pumpkins — which should be between 180 to 225 kilograms for a person to be able to sit inside it and paddle — are about half that size.

He blames May’s dry weather, and then the constant rain of June, July and August. 

“It’s just been so wet that a lot of our crops didn’t make it, or we didn’t even get some planted, and some of them just didn’t turn out good, especially the giant pumpkins,” Dill said.

He said some growers even lost their giant pumpkins in recent weeks — gourds that would’ve been used in the regatta.

A man wearing a green toque and green shirt sits in a giant pumpkin that is floating on a lake. He holds a paddle.
Dr. Kier Stewart, a Halifax cardiac surgeon, displays his technique as he races his giant pumpkin in the 19th annual Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival regatta on Lake Pisiquid in 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

“What happens is that a lot of times they will split, and once they split from growing too fast or what have you, then they’re no good,” he said.

“They’re not going to float. They’re just going to be like the Titanic, basically.”

Still, Dill said the show must go on in Shelburne.

“At the end of the day it’ll happen,” he said. “We always persevere here in good old Nova Scotia, so I think Shelburne should expect an Atlantic Giant showing.”

Smith said five people have already signed up for the regatta, including a 12-year-old from Shelburne, an axe-thrower from Barrington and returning champion, Ryan Foley.

A man sits inside a giant pumpkin and paddles it through the water.
Ryan Foley won the inaugural pumpkin regatta race in Shelburne last October. (Robin Smith Photography)

She said before the regatta on Saturday, there will be pumpkin carving and the annual giant pumpkin weigh-off. There will also be a farmers market and food trucks on site.

This will also be the first year there will be student relay races following the regatta, and anyone who wants to get in a giant pumpkin will be able to give it a try,” she said.

“It’s looking like it’s just going to be a jam-filled busy day with so much to do on the Shelburne waterfront.”

No Windsor regatta this year

Meanwhile in Windsor, Dill said he has heard from some locals asking about the town’s regatta now that Lake Pisiquid has been refilled. 

The regatta has been traditionally held in Windsor on the man-made lake, but the event was cancelled indefinitely in 2021 after a federal order stopped water flow at the Windsor causeway.

That order came to an end in June, when the province issued an emergency order that the lake be refilled to provide a potential water source for fighting wildfires that were plaguing the province at the time.

The emergency order has continued indefinitely, and the lake remains full, but that doesn’t mean there will be a regatta in Windsor this year.

VanEssa Roberts, the former logistics co-ordinator for the Windsor regatta, confirmed that the event won’t be happening despite the lake being full.

She said the regatta takes a year to plan, and it just wouldn’t have been feasible, especially after the poor growing season.

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