by Mike Conroy
On Saturday, Oct. 15, pumpkins and people descended on North Creek Community Center to participate in the area’s most creative fall festival, the Montgomery Village Great Pumpkin Race. Colorful decoration, tense racing action, plenty of family fun and pumpkin-themed everything, set to the tunes of local band 45 RPM, was the backdrop again this year for the 7th Annual Fall Festival. Families gathered with pumpkin racers in hand to enjoy the festivities and try their luck at taking home the coveted Pumpkin Racer Trophy.
In the final heat, Kelvin Ahlman’s “GoPro Pumpkin,” Caroline Magdamo’s “Memes of 2016,” the “Hero Dog Pumpkin” and River Ahlman’s “Dragonite” all took off for the finish line, with no bumping, crashing or pushing. But a close call at the line and a review of spectator video still couldn’t decide a winner. Memes and Dragonite crossed the line at the same time, forcing a final race-off of the two pumpkin racers. With a last-minute lane switch, the two headed for the finish again, this time with a clear victory for “Dragonite.”
This was a back-to-back victory for the Ahlman family, who took home last year’s trophy with “Gordo II.” The secret to their success? Fast, straight wheels, carefully picked pumpkins, minimal decoration for less drag and a bit of luck not getting run off course by another racer. This is the first time in Great Pumpkin Race history that a single racer has taken home multiple trophies.
For the rest of the festival, though, hundreds of residents and community neighbors enjoyed the rides, games and food. It was clear from the number of test runs, pumpkin garage visits and fantastically decorated pumpkins, that competition for this year’s medals and trophy was going to be stiff; there were 110 pumpkins entered into the race this year.
Before the races started, festival goers had an opportunity to visit with local business and organizations, preview or purchase artwork from the Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association, play carnival games, ride the rides, launch tennis balls at 50th Anniversary targets, visit the Squeals on Wheels Petting Zoo and participate in pumpkin-themed crafts. The test track and racer garage were encompassed in a flurry of activity up to the last minute.
Earlier in the day, judges sampled pumpkin baked goods prepared for the Pumpkin Treat Competition. Lauren Shuttles’ Pumpkin Spice Cupcake took top prize in the 15 and under category, and Alexandrine Froger’s Pumpkin Pie won the medal in the 16 and older category. Both winners defended their 2016 titles for back-to-back wins!
Although MVF Board of Directors President Pete Young predicted a victory in the VIP field, it was newly-elected Board member Jim Marsh who pulled off the win with his Ohio State-themed racer. Young’s 50th Anniversary-themed racer was smashed, and the rest of the field barely made it to the finish line. But while racing is important, it was Senator Nancy King’s “Duke” pumpkin (from the summer movie “The Secret Life of Pets”) that looked the best trotting down the track.
Following the VIP opening race, racers lined up for elimination heat after heat for the next two hours, pitting siblings, friends, neighbors and strangers against each other. Amid a plethora of finely decorated, rule-abiding pumpkins was a fair number of cheaters, who, once identified, were at the mercy of the crowd and the referee. It didn’t take much crowd convincing to have those whose pumpkins bent the rules eliminated from competition via the referee’s mallet. Several chants of “Smash it! Smash it!” were heard before the final thud of the mallet sent pumpkin seeds flying across the race track to loud cheers from the crowd.
MVF would like to thank our generous sponsors and participants in the event, including: Holy Cross Germantown Hospital; 45 RPM; Montgomery County 6th District Police; Upper Montgomery County Civil Air Patrol Cadets; Gaithersburg Fine Arts Association; Kohl’s Cares; Ameritech Construction; Barley Field Orchard; Bath Fitter; Beldon Leafguard; Charis Realty Group; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Church of the Redeemer; Creig Northrop Real Estate; Divine Landscaping; GAC Services; Georgetown Hill; Giant Food; Homefix; Ledo Pizza; Liberty Mutual; Kicks Karate; Kitchen Saver; Tabitha Harvey, Mary Kay Consultant; Montgomery Village Animal Hospital; Spanish Catholic Charities; Thompson Creek Window Company; TW Perry; and Village Montessori School for supporting the event through attendance and volunteerism.
Next year’s Great Pumpkin Race and Fall Festival is sure to bring even more competition and excitement—keep your wheels, or find new ones, and start planning your racer now! The 2017 Great Pumpkin Race and Fall Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14—see you then!