CBC Kids | Play Games, Watch Video, Explore


Get your pumpkins ready…it’s the Great Pumpkin Boat Race!


A costumed paddler races their giant white pumpkin in the 17th annual regatta on Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, Nova Scotia, on Sunday, October 11, 2015. Participants hollow out the massive gourds and pilot them across a 500-metre course. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

A pumpkin is a fruit you can do a lot with. There’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin stew, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin-spiced everything, and, of course, everyone’s favourite decoration: Halloween jack-o’-lanterns! But pumpkins can do even more — in one Nova Scotia town every year they’re used as boats!

Home to the giant pumpkins

Howard Dill with his award-winning giant pumpkin

Donald Black and Howard Dill display the champion pumpkin in Windsor, N.S. in 1993. Winthrop grew the mammoth gourd from one of Dill's Atlantic Giant seeds and won the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth weigh-off on the weekend. The massive pumpkin tipped the scales at 398 kilograms. (CP PHOTO/stf-Andrew Vaughan)

Windsor, Nova Scotia, is a small town known for its big pumpkins. One of its residents, Howard Dill, spent years working on ways to grow bigger and bigger pumpkins. He was in the Guinness Book of Records four times for having the world’s largest pumpkin! What’s more, he developed his own strain of pumpkin seeds, the Atlantic Giant, that are used today all over the world to grow enormous gourds.

A giant pumpkin grown from Howard Dill's seeds

A giant pumpkin, grown from Howard Dill's special Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds, competes in San Francisco. (Photo by Bill Barber licensed CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Dill family still has a farm in Windsor and every year there are competitions held there for people all over the area to see who can grow the biggest pumpkin. But the question always came up: what do you do with a giant pumpkin after the pumpkin-growing contest is over? Pumpkins that big aren’t usually good for eating, and even transporting them requires trucks and forklifts so no one wants to take them back home again. The town came up with a unique solution to the pumpkin problem — they turned their pumpkins into boats!

Pumpkin regatta

paddlers in a hollowed out pumpkin

Two paddlers race in their giant pumpkins in the 16th annual regatta on Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, N.S., in 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Every October, Windsor holds a pumpkin regatta on Lake Pisquid. A regatta is a word for a whole bunch of boat races. In this case, the boats are all made of pumpkins! The giant pumpkins are hollowed out, and in many cases, painted bright colours.

a mother and daughter paddle a carved out pumpkin painted like a minion

Paddlers in their giant pumpkins painted to look like a Minion in the 16th annual regatta on Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, N.S., in 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

Because the pumpkins are so big, they’re buoyant enough to float with a person or even two inside them. People use kayak paddles to get their boats moving across the lake.

two paddlers in funny costumes

Paddlers in funny costumes race their giant pumpkins in the 17th annual regatta on Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, N.S., in 2015. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

There’s also a race for motorized pumpkin boats, though those require extra help to stay afloat. Pumpkin boats aren’t the easiest things to steer, so if you go, you shouldn’t expect a fast race, or even for all the boats to finish. But it’s a lot of fun to watch! The racers often wear costumes to match their pumpkins.

Celebrate the Pumpkin!

a giant pumpkin

What can you do with a giant pumpkin? (Pixabay)

The race isn’t the only part of the town’s annual pumpkin festival. There’s also the weigh-in the weekend before for all the giant pumpkins. It’s held at the Dill family farm, with prizes awarded for the heaviest pumpkins. Winning pumpkins can be over 600 kilograms! The town also holds a parade before the big race.

a trio of lit up jack-o-lanterns


And there’s a festival to celebrate all things pumpkin-y, with pumpkin carving, pumpkin painting and general pumpkin admiring. Since the Pumpkin Regatta is held in mid-October there’s plenty of time to turn any leftover pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween!