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Racers dressed as storybook characters take off for the annual Pumpkin Regatta. (Melissa Proulx/ Union Leader Correspondent)

Gourds take to the river in Goffstown

GOFFSTOWN — Manning the grill for the Goffstown Rotary Club’s hotdog stand, Police Chief Rob Browne didn’t have the best view of the annual pumpkin regatta on the Piscataquog River in downtown on Sunday.

But after learning that Officer Matt Pelletier, who was steering their giant gourd in the regatta, was the winner, Browne grinned, saying he was happy with the victory.

Pelletier was one of six who dressed up in storybook character costumes for this year’s Giant Pumpkin Regatta, one of the headline events for the annual celebration in downtown.

Meg Norklun, who paddled for the Goffstown YMCA dressed as Peter Pan, said this was her sixth year racing. She said the unique event is something she loves, particularly when the kids she teaches are cheering from the sidelines.

“It’s always different,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Shannon Hohenadel, a fifth grade language arts and social studies teacher at Mountain View Middle School, was dressed as Princess Fiona from the movie “Shrek.” She said that she was also looking forward to her students cheering on and just hoped to finish “in the boat with my wig on.”

This year marked the 18th that the event has been held, said Charity Frost, director of the Goffstown Main Street Program. The event is meant as a fundraiser for that program, as well as a way to promote the town itself.

“It’s a good boost for the businesses,” she said. “It showcases everything that’s here in Goffstown.”

Each year, the downtown fills with vendors and activities over the weekend: apple sling shots, dog costume contests, hot air balloon rides, face painting, pumpkin carving and pie eating contests. About 5,000 people come through the town over the course of the two days, Frost said.

The pumpkins come from the New Hampshire Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds on average.

This year, a disease infected many of the pumpkins and killed them off and another farm had to step in to provide them the needed bounty.

“We only have seven pumpkins,” Frost said. “We usually have 10. It was not a good growing season.”

But despite this setback, Frost said this weekend was a success.

“It’s really fun to see all the community members,” she said.

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