Fall at the Union Terrace means crisp blue skies and crimson leaves scattered among the brightly colored tables and chairs—but this year you’ll also see a flash of orange bobbing in Lake Mendota as the UW-Madison’s Fourth annual Giant Pumpkin Regatta takes place on Oct. 4th at noon at Hoofers pier at the Memorial Union Terrace.
Organized by the Hoofers Sailing Club and professors of horticulture Jim Nienhuis and Irwin Goldman, students—or “pumpkin pilots”—will paddle hollowed-out three-foot wide “sleek sailing squash” (mounted to tractor tires for stability) between the piers at the Memorial Union Terrace, 800 Langdon Street. The Union’s Hoofer Sailing Club will set up the course with buoys and provide supervision. In addition to life jackets, each pilot will be outfitted with what Nienhuis calls “an attractively carved pumpkin helmet.”
The pumpkin pilots will come from a class on world vegetable crops that Nienhuis and Goldman teach in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
“It’s a fun way of getting students involved,” says Nienhuis, who also cooks and recites poetry for his students. “When students are actively participating their interest in the subject heightens—whether they’re learning about the biochemistry of carotenoid pathways or genetic diversity in the Cucurbit family.”