If you walked downtown Mill Street under the flyover this Saturday October 30th, you may have seen a large crowd full of children and adults holding bespoke pumpkins on wheels.
This was the annual Carbondale Pumpkin Race and Costume Parade. The annual event allows people of all ages to compete against each other to see who has the best-designed and fastest pumpkins. On Saturday mornings, townspeople gather on Mill Street to run their pumpkins down the hill if the first on the ground wins. The winner with the fastest pumpkin in the Standard Pumpkin Race will receive a trophy and $ 100 cash, but there is also the Mayor Branding Grand Prix where the pumpkin with the best time wins a cash prize of $ 250.
Even though it was a cold and cloudy autumn morning, the race was full of community members in Halloween costumes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebrations had to be canceled last year. People were excited to be back this year and compete with their roommates. The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone in the past year and a half and people are again comfortable around large crowds. In any weather, people look forward to the feeling of community.
While this event is meant to be family fun, there are some who try to get an edge and cheat, according to Marcia Sinnott, who has been organizing it since 2013.
“In the event of a fraudulent pumpkin, Saluki Alaun and two-time Olympian DeAnna Price will smash the pumpkin with their great ‘Hammer of Justice’,” said Sinnot.
Many pumpkins were smashed throughout the day; some of the participants were watermelons rather than pumpkins. Other participants weren’t interested in winning, they just wanted their pumpkins to be smashed. A big part of the race was smashing the pumpkins while the kids all “Smash it, smash it!” just before Price smashed it and the pumpkin entrails splashed over the children who were cheering with excitement.
The race was filled with local celebrities like Price, Judge Diane Daugherty, who hosted the event; and Miss Illinois Isabelle Hanson, who got the job of “the great pumpkin catcher.” The audience loved the special guests who brought a charismatic and fun show to the streets. There were lots of great pumpkins ridden that day, but the winner was a family with their mummy pumpkin who won the trophy and won the $ 100 prize.
The Great Pumpkin Race brings the community together as a Carbondale tradition. It will continue to bring the community together as they come up with creative and fun ideas with pumpkins that they compete with their friends, family and organizations. Visitor numbers and participants are growing every year, and with more special guests showing up, the future looks bright for the Great Pumpkin Race.