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New Big Bad Pumpkin Race and Waterfront Bash at Shawnee Mission Park on Oct. 18 promises a family-friendly fall outing
POSTED: 09/17/2008
Johnson County Park and Recreation District Childrens Services Manager Kim Chappelow Lee said the event was inspired by a similar race in Manhattan Beach, Calif., which won the National Park and Recreation Association’s 2007 Innovative Programming Award.

"I thought what a novel event - it’s so family friendly and it affords so many opportunities for creativity," Chappelow Lee said. "We’ve also been looking at doing a fall event that got away from the Halloween theme and also from the kind of traditional fall festival that you see everywhere. This really filled that."

In addition to the pumpkin contest, performances by family-friendly bands Bongo Barry and Jim Cosgrove "Mr. Stinky Feet" are planned, as is a show by Magician Devin Henderson.

There will also be concessions, sidewalk pastel mural painting, free hayrides from the southeast corner of the parking lot, and "pumpkin chucking," which will involve throwing small pumpkins at a floating target in Shawnee Mission Park Lake. Booth space is also being sold for this event, and in addition to promoting their business or agency, booth participants must also provide an interactive activity.

The event is free to spectators, but there is a fee of $20 for each entry in the pumpkin race. Advance registration is required for all racers. For more information, visit or call (913) 236-1218.

The race will be single-elimination style similar to "pinewood derby" races and will take place on a course in the marina parking lot which will be roughly 50 yards long. Winners will receive a trophy. The slope of a 12-inch ramp will get the pumpkins rolling and slope of the parking lot should do the rest.

"The parking lot has the appropriate grade to it that once they get going, they’re going to go," Chappelow Lee said. "Maybe not fast, but they’re going to go."

Under the rules, each entry must be constructed from a single carved pumpkin and use two independent axles with wheels attached and which run through the pumpkin. No chassis of any kind, such as skateboards or toy trucks, can be used and no motorized enhancements are allowed.

"I think it’s going to be an awesome thing for parent and child to construct that thing together at home, be very proud to bring it out and compete against other people," Chappelow Lee said. "We just hope nobody takes it way too seriously."

Entries in violation of the rules will be allowed to race, but are disqualified from winning, although they can still be considered for the categories below.

In addition to the race, entries can compete for honors in a number of wacky categories. These include: "best dressed," "best school pride," "best animal," "most likely to be impounded," "most awesome crash," "most cheerful," "best sports theme," "most unusual," "best chick magnet," "looks most like mom," "best Land of Oz character," and "most muscle."

Chappelow Lee said she will feel this event is successful if it draws 50 race entries.

"We’re expecting this event to be very small this year, because we started doing it late, but we expect it to be an annual event and we expect it to grow and just get as popular as can be," she said. "At the very least, it will be an awesome Saturday afternoon for people to show up and enjoy the park, enjoy the performances, buy a hot dog. That kind of thing."

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