October 28, 2012 in City

Pumpkin race plants seeds of helping through Meals on Wheels

By The Spokesman-Review
Video: Great Pumpkin Race
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Geri Rubano cheers on her son Luke, 4, at the starting line of the second annual Great Pumpkin Race on Saturday at 17th Avenue and Madison Street. The event was a fundraiser to benefit Meals on Wheels.
(Full-size photo)

Pumpkins are good for more than just jack-o’-lanterns.

While they might not be the most aerodynamic edible, they can move at surprising speeds with a little human intervention, as contestants in Spokane’s annual Great Pumpkin Race discovered Saturday.

Now in its second year, the race was a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels, which fights senior hunger in Spokane by providing low-cost meals.

“It’s just a sweet family event,” said Meals on Wheels Executive Director Mollie Dalpae. “It gets children involved and gets them introduced to the concept of what Meals on Wheels is, what this is about.”

Several dozen contestants attached wheels to pumpkins, which could weigh no more than 12 pounds and could only be powered by gravity.

Organized by age group, the competitors lined up at 17th Avenue to roll their gourd vehicles down Madison Street to the finish line at 16th Avenue.

Although the pumpkins were required to pass the wobble test for stability, some rogue pumpkins nevertheless crashed into each other or veered off course into bushes, with the contestants chasing after them.

But many pumpkins, like the one belonging to 6-year-old Leo Schmidt, made it to the finish line. He attributed his success to the spoiler he attached to his wood frame.

“I think it helps it get a straighter course,” said Schmidt, who got a helping hand from his sister, Kathleen Schmidt, 4.

Their mother, Amy Schmidt, said her mom was a longtime Meals on Wheels volunteer.

“We came last year and we thought it was a great fundraiser,” Amy Schmidt said. “Plus, we thought it’d be fun for the kids.”

While some contestants focused solely on the engineering of their pumpkins, other chose to decorate them. There was a princess pumpkin, a cowboy, a clownfish and one wearing a wig, all affixed to different types of wheels. One pumpkin barreled down the hill in a miniature Radio Flyer wagon.

And all the fun supports a good cause, Dalpae said.

The organization has seen a 20 percent increase in need from last year, and seniors facing higher heating costs during the winter have less money left for food.

Local businesses and community groups donated prizes and treats, and everyone who attended left with a bag of goodies. About 25 volunteers pitched in.

“It really is a community event,” Dalpae said. “We’re already looking forward to next year.”

Last year, Meals on Wheels, which receives no state or federal funding, raised about $800 from the event. This year, Dalpae said organizers were hoping to raise $2,000.

“By the time we’re done with a fundraiser, we are exhausted,” she said. “But by the time we get done with this one, our faces are tired from smiling.”

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