Pumpkin Festival presents Pumpkin Regatta and Pumpkin Drop


Victoria Truesdale

Elk Grove’s 28th Annual Giant Pumpkin Festival celebrates its 14th Pumpkin Regatta on Sunday. Featured here are contestants Johnny “The Shark” Gayton and Robert Cook.

Elk Grove’s 28th Annual Giant Pumpkin Festival celebrated its 14th Pumpkin Regatta on Sunday. Cosumnes Parks and Recreation holds the festival during the first weekend of October at Elk Grove Regional Park.
The Pumpkin Regatta is a fan favorite event where contestants race around the lake in hollowed out pumpkins from the weigh-off to collect flags representing festival sponsors.
The crowd was noticeably excited as they waited for the four skippers to get settled into their pumpkins and erupted into cheers when the announcer started the race.
Three of the contestants got off to a strong start, but contestant Eric Sturgess sank before he could make it to the dock where the flags were being handed out.
With one skipper down, it was an extremely close race particularly between long-time champion Robert Cook and Johnny “The Shark” Gayton who was racing with a shark cut-out on his head.
At nearly the last second, Gayton managed to pull ahead, winning the race for the first time and fulfilling the promise he’d stood by for the past few years.
“I feel great. I held up to what I was going to do,” Gayton said after his win. He said that he’s also planning on donating his winnings from a different contest.
All of the winnings for the first, second and third place skippers went to either Dignity Health or Kids Care Dental and Orthodontics.
After the race, another event began that is popular among the younger viewers which is the Pumpkin Drop.
Using the forklift that put the pumpkins in place for the regatta, each of the pumpkins was lifted as high as the forklift could get them and dropped into the lake.
Children were chanting, “higher, higher” with every pumpkin and they cheered the loudest when the pumpkins fell and broke upon impact with the water, sending out waves that almost knocked the volunteers in the lake off their feet.
Recreation Supervisor Elizabeth Rhoan got to enjoy her first time announcing the Pumpkin Regatta after six years of working at the festival. She said that she loves her job and working at the pumpkin festival.
“I get to throw parties and make friends for a living,” Rhoan said.