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Belgians Hold Relay Race Across Pond in Hollowed-out Pumpkins

Published: October 24, 2022
The tradition dates back almost 2,000 years as people partake in the celebration for the first time in two years in Kasterlee, Belgium on October 23, 2022. (Image: Screenshot via Reuters)

With fall in full swing, people all around the world have begun sharing their favorite traditions and celebrations. Wearing wimples, wigs and even a shark head, Belgians hopped into giant floating pumpkins to take part in a relay race across a pond on Sunday, Oct. 23 — resurrecting an annual tradition halted by the COVID pandemic.

To win the regatta, teams of four had to be first to race round a hut in the middle of the pond in the northern town of Kasterlee, before driving their paddles into a hollowed-out pumpkin on the opposing shore.

“In the early years, around the year 2000, the heaviest pumpkins we could grow weighed around 400 kilograms, now we have reached a maximum weight of around 1,000 kilograms. These pumpkins are too heavy to use as a boat and we are having more and more of them. So actually we have fewer and fewer pumpkins that can be used as a boat. That might be a problem in the coming years,” President of Kasterlee’s Pumpkin Society, Paul Boonen, said.

Organizers said the event began as a way of putting the oversized vegetables grown for competitions to good use but that they had been a victim of their own success — many are now too big.

“We have fewer and fewer pumpkins that can be used as a boat. That might be a problem in the coming years,” the president of the Kasterlee Pumpkin Society, Paul Boonen, told Reuters.

The flesh is hollowed out of the giant winter squashes in the morning and turned into soup before the main races – split into children’s, women’s, men’s and mixed competitions.

This year, the race was fully booked in three days with 65 teams of four people signing up — some of whom had travelled specially to take part.

“It’s dirty, it’s sticky, it’s oily and you have the feeling that you may be in the water anytime,” said Spanish-born Oscar Guell, 36, who traveled from Brussels to partake in the celebration.

By Reuters. (Production: Bart Biesemans, Charlotte Van Campenhout, Johnny Cotton)