Great Pumpkin Derby returns to Watertown’s Rand Drive Oct. 1

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WATERTOWN — The city will kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Oct. 1 with a whimsical tradition that began last year: the Great Pumpkin Derby.

The Great Pumpkin Derby is a family-friendly event to raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society-Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, with all proceeds from the event going to the organization.

Event coordinator Teri M. Walters has been on the breast cancer portion of the American Cancer Society committee for the past 14 years, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and works with several others on the committee who will be helping out the day of the event along with her husband Steve Duvall, who has been helping with behind-the-scenes details.

“The reason we went with Oct. 1 this year is what better way to start Breast Cancer Awareness Month than starting with a race against breast cancer on Oct. 1?,” Ms. Walters said.

The event will allow for participants to bring their decorated pumpkins to race down Rand Drive in Watertown to compete for the fastest times, with winners receiving prizes in youth, teen and adult categories. Registration will begin at 10 a.m. with racing beginning soon after, depending on how long it takes to register participants. To register, a $10 fee will be required, along with names and phone numbers to use to contact participants in case they can’t stay until the end of the event for prizes.

When people register, they will receive a wristband with a number that matches the number they’re going to put on their pumpkin. From there, they’ll be directed to the judge’s table to be judged on design and originality. The designs don’t have to have something to do with breast cancer awareness; it can be whatever participants want it to be.

The road will be blocked off and there will be space on either side for spectators to watch the races. In its first year, the event drew about 20 participants and about 30 to 40 spectators. This year, with more exposure for the event, the hope is that there will be an even bigger turnout.

“It couldn’t have happened without such a wonderful group of committee members, the help of my husband, the help of our sponsors, the help of Don (Boshart) who of course is the director of American Cancer Society; and of course the city of Watertown,” Ms. Walters said. “I’m very excited to see the new pumpkins for this year and what they look like.”

Pumpkins must be on four wheels somehow, so participants may use a skateboard, a cart or anything on four wheels, as long as the pumpkin is able to stay on that platform. Motors of any kind are not allowed, and the entries must be pumpkins — no substitutes will be accepted. This is one rule that will be taken very seriously, with a “Smashinator” on standby so anyone who tries to use anything other than a pumpkin will have to face him, and he will take a mallet and smash the fake pumpkins.

Costumes are welcome this year, but since the event is taking place much earlier in the month, Ms. Walters said she is not pushing them because a lot of kids won’t have their costumes yet. But if people would like to dress up, she and the rest of the Making Strides committee would love to see them.

Breast cancer awareness is not only important to Ms. Walters as a member of the committee for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, she also has a personal connection. Ms. Walters has what is called carcinoma in situ — she is pre-breast cancer and has to be monitored every year. Her mother is a 46-year survivor.

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