Aiden McWhinney races to first place in the first Great Vernon Pumpkin Race Saturday, Oct. 26, in Okanagan Lake at Vernon’s Kin Beach. McWhinney was the only one of six paddlers to successfully stay aboard his/her pumpkin for the race. (Heath Fletcher for Tourism Vernon photo)

Great Vernon Pumpkin Race attracts six gourd paddlers

Half-dozen people attempt to paddle large pumpkin parallel to Kin Beach

Pumpkins are made for carving, pies, lattés, spice.

But paddling?

Six hearty souls took to the above freezing waters of Okanagan Lake at Vernon’s Kin Beach on a gorgeous fall Saturday afternoon and tried to paddle out in the lake and back in a pumpkin. A rather large gourd at that.

They competed in Tourism Vernon’s Great Vernon Pumpkin Race to help raise money for the Kalamalka Rotary Club’s Starfish Backpack program, and the event – part of the second Great Vernon Fall Classic – was filmed by a Korean film crew, who also supplied a pumpkin paddler.

READ MORE: Great Vernon Pumpkin Race to star in South Korean documentary

“We paddled, dragged, pushed our pumpkins across the 50-metres parallel to Kin Beach,” said Teresa Durning of Tourism Vernon, one of those six hearty souls who paddled in a pumpkin grown by Mackie Lake House in Coldstream and was the only female competitor.

Aiden McWhinney won the first place trophy as the young lad was the only one of the six able to stay in his pumpkin. McWhinney was paddling for event co-sponsor John Deak Realty.

Farmers could bring in their pumpkins to be weighed the Saturday before the pumpkin race at Davison Orchards, and then decide whether they’d like to keep their gourd or hollow it out and transform it into a boat for the Great Vernon Pumpkin Race.

Two organizations – Destination Think and SilverStar Mountain Resort – each paid $500 to the Starfish Pack program. Destination Think’s representative paddled in a prize pumpkin grown by Tara Nahal, and a SilverStar rep paddled in a gourd grown by Greg Meshen.

READ MORE: 785-pound Vernon gourd the real pumpkin king

City of Vernon economic development and tourism manager Kevin Poole paddled for Tourism Vernon is a Meshen-grown pumpkin, while the Korean film crew members attempted to paddle in a Mackie Lake House gourd.

Close to 400 people were on hand to witness the fun and frivolity.

After the race, the pumpkins were composted and delivered to a local bunny and donkey sanctuary for sweet treats.

Paddles and wetsuits were provided by Elements Adventures and a safety canoe was nearby in case some unlucky pumpkins couldn’t stay afloat. One woman dressed as a witch was nearby on a standup paddleboard to help if needed.


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William Bakker from Destination Think waves the white flag of surrender after a futile attempt to paddle his pumpkin in Okanagan Lake during the Great Vernon Pumpkin Race Saturday, Oct. 26, at Kin Beach. (Heath Fletcher for Tourism Vernon photo)

Tourism Vernon’s Kevin Poole takes the plunge from his pumpkin during the first Greater Vernon Pupmkin Race Saturday, Oct. 26, in Okanagan Lake at Vernon’s Kin Beach. (Heath Fletcher for Tourism Vernon photo)

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