GOFFSTOWN — The banks of the Piscataquog River Reservoir were packed on Sunday afternoon as the Pumpkin Regatta returned for its 19th year.
There was an initial weigh-in on Saturday morning. Entrants in the race hollowed out and decorated pumpkins weighing up to 1,500 pounds, jumped inside, and raced them up the river toward a floating finish line near the Main Street Bridge. One of the entrants this year was Santa Claus with his elves.
The Goffstown Board of Selectmen took first prize this year, the pumpkin captained by Goffstown Selectman Chet Bowen. Competing in the regatta for the first time, Bowen joked that the key to his victory was not speed, but buoyancy.
“Look forward, and try not to sink. That was my strategy,” said Bowen. “It required Tom Brady-like focus.”
Bowen was also impressed by the size of the crowd both at the regatta and throughout the weekend, with favorable weather drawing what he described as one of the largest turnouts he has seen in recent years.
Plymouth State student and Pembroke resident Krissy Mehegan participated in the Pumpkin 10K race earlier that morning. She said she tries to enter at least one 10K per month, and posted a personal best time this weekend.
This was the first time she had ever watched the regatta in person, saying she had never seen anything like it.
“I think I expected it, with the word ‘regatta,’ there would be more boating and more boats,” she said. “This was fun. This is a crazy idea, people floating around in real pumpkins. It’s just a different, crazy thing.”
The regatta and the weekend as a whole raises money for the Goffstown Main Street Program, a nonprofit dedicated to the “promotion, preservation and economic vitality” of Goffstown Village, according to its website.
The weekend attraction can also serve as a boost to several businesses in the Village.
The Blue Moose Café, located just a few hundred feet away from the ending point of the regatta, opened during regatta weekend four years ago.
Blue Moose Café owner Alex LaPointe saw this weekend as a success for his business, echoing Bowen’s observation that the crowds were larger this year than in some recent years due to the good weather.
The income from “Regatta Sunday” isn’t much different than the income from a normal Sunday at the café, which is focused on breakfast and lunch customers, LaPointe said. What’s different, he said, is the higher number of customers, which requires a specialized menu.
In past years, LaPointe has offered regatta weekend-only items, like fried Oreos. This year’s specialties were corn dogs and fried dough. LaPointe also got the chance to expand on his recently-added apple fritters by experimenting with blueberry fritters and peach fritters.
“I’m sure there are locals who don’t come down here who are from Pinardville or Manchester and don’t go by here, so they get a chance to try us,” he said. “But I think a lot of the people are locals who are stopping in who haven’t gotten a chance to yet or are people I see every weekend.”