Damariscotta Pumpkinfest kicks off with weigh-off

Posted:  Saturday, September 30, 2017 - 4:45pm

Damariscotta Pumpkinfest 2017 kicked off with the volunteer weigh-off Saturday, Sept. 30 at Pinkham’s Plantation in Damariscotta.

“They thought we were crazy,” said co-founder Buzz Pinkham regarding his, Bill Clark’s and Tom Lishness’s decision 13 years ago to dig out a large pumpkin and paddle it around in the Damariscotta River.

Two years later, the festival was born. Since then, it has expanded to a week-long event including a regatta, parade, catapult, pumpkin drop, pumpkin-carving and several other activities, said Pinkham. “We had 12 pumpkin artworks on Main Street,” said Pinkham of the first festival year.

The challenge then was to obtain enough pumpkins to serve all the activities. This year, a dozen will be used for boats, several will be dropped from a crane and 60-70 will be carved for business sponsors in Damariscotta and Newcastle.

“You can’t go to the farmers market and order up a dozen,” he said. Clark thought of giving the job to local growers. They sprouted giant pumpkin seeds and handed them out free. “People came from all over,” said Pinkham.

This year, the festival handed out 500-600 seedlings. On Saturday, the amateur growers of all ages came to the amateur class or volunteer weigh-off. Professional growers were due on Sunday. Clark said he was concerned that growing conditions were not ideal with a wet, cold spring and a dry summer. Pinkham was more optimistic.

“They can add water but you can’t make the sun shine,” said Pinkham.

“I had the very first boat,” said Lishness, who will construct a dugout boat for the motorized division of the regatta. “If I don’t go swimming, I am a winner,” he said.