Ahlman family keeps Pumpkin Race victory streak alive

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by Mike Conroy
On Saturday, Oct. 14, pumpkins and people once again 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, formed the backdrop again this year for the 8th Annual Fall Festival. Families gathered with pumpkin racers in hand to enjoy the festivities and try their luck at racing away with the coveted Pumpkin Racer Trophy.

In the final heat, Mark Ahlman’s “River Rush” (a.k.a. “GoPro Pumpkin”), Watkins Mill High School’s “The Wolverine,” Ahlman Home School’s “Punkie” and Leslie Figueroa’s “Ashley” all took off for the finish line with a clean, no bumping, crashing or pushing heat. Although all the racers were victorious in their respective race categories, it was “River Rush” who was the one to beat. As noted in earlier races, this pumpkin was clearly in a rush to the finish line.

This was a “three-peat” victory for the Ahlman family, who took home the 2015 trophy with “Gordo II” and last year’s win with the original “GoPro Pumpkin.” The secret to their success remains the same—fast, straight wheels; carefully picked, aerodynamic pumpkins; minimal decoration for less drag; and a the best luck in not getting run off course by another racer. Another first in Great Pumpkin Race history, the triple win!

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 119 pumpkins entered into the race this year, as well as seven VIP racers, a full line up of MVF staff racers and even sponsor participation!

Before the races started, festival goers had an opportunity to visit with local businesses and organizations, play carnival games, ride the rides, taste the festival food and participate in pumpkin-themed crafts. The test track and racer garage were encompassed in a flurry of activity to the last minute, with all racers trying to gain the competitive edge—or at least figure out how to roll straight enough to cross the finish line!

Earlier in the day, judges sampled pumpkin baked goods prepared for the Pumpkin Treat Competition. Alexis Whelan’s Caramel-topped Pumpkin Cheesecake took top prize in the 15 and under category and Misty Kingsbury’s Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing won the medal in the 16 and older category. All the baked treats were enjoyed by the judges; there were no empty stomachs in the judging booth!

With a full field of racers clamoring for position in the VIP exhibition, the WMHS Wolverine pumpkin sneaked to victory. MVF Board of Directors member Jim Marsh paired his win from last year with another heat win against MVF staff with his Board member-themed racer. And it was GAC Services’ silver racer that beat out Keyote in the sponsor race. But while racing is important, it was Senator Nancy King’s “Poppy” pumpkin (from the movie “Trolls”) that looked the prettiest, trotting her pink hair down the track.

Following the opening races, resident 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 lurked 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. 

A few cheater pumpkins held surprises, including some candy from “Paula Pinata” and a mess of chocolate sauce and whipped cream from “Smash Me.” But one cheater ghost seemed to outrun the mallet over and over.

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; Kohl’s Cares; ADT, LLC; Asbury Methodist Village; Barley Field Orchard; Capital Remodeling; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Divine Landscaping; Dogs on the Run; the Frederick Keys; GAC Services; Georgetown Hill; Gutter Helmet Systems; Homefix Custom Remodeling; Kicks Karate; Kitchen Saver; Ledo Pizza; Tabitha Harvey, Mary Kay Consultant; Montgomery Village Animal Hospital; Lisa Baldridge, Noonday Collection; Nu Look Home Design; Linda Mattis, Pampered Chef; Nahid Kiani-Anaraki, Re/Max Platinum Realty; Renewal by Andersen of Maryland; Thompson Creek Window Company; and TW Perry 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 2018 Great Pumpkin Race and Fall Festival is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 13—see you then!