A decorated pumkpkin at the Pumpkin Festival in Damariscotta, Maine, looks like a still to make ‘pumpkin juice’ from smaller pumpkins.
A decorated pumkpkin at the Pumpkin Festival in Damariscotta, Maine, looks like a still to make ‘pumpkin juice’ from smaller pumpkins. (Kate Abbott / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Last week, I saw a pumpkin race. Teams of three in relays actually sat in hollowed-out giant pumpkins and paddled with kayak paddles. It gave me a lift that the best racer on the winning team is a woman. In the solo races later, she piloted a pumpkin boat she had carved herself -- a tippy craft with swan's wings.

These were the entrants in the annual Pumpkin Regatta in Damariscotta, Maine. And I was standing in the crowd by the waterside, earlier in the morning than I am usually awake, touseled and smelling faintly of wood smoke and kerosene lamps, and laughing.

Last week I took a break, after the last Bershires Week magazine of the season, and spent a long weekend in my grandfather's cabin. It's an octagonal wooden single room with a wood stove and a collection of oil lamps. When the sun sets, it gets dark.

In the fall, with the half a dozen small lamp flames burning, the cabin feels like a Jack-o-lantern itself.

And just north, Damariscotta was full of giant pumpkins. All the shops on Main Street had carved or painted their own (for photos, see the blog at www.berkshireeagle.com/bytheway). Outside Round Top's ice cream parlor, three pumpkins in a row boat lined up as a massive banana split. Inside, the crew of scoopers dug out the last dozen flavors, taking names off the menu as they finished each gallon.


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This was Columbus Day weekend, and you could feel the town making the shift from summer season to quiet winter days. But the pumpkins will be there through Halloween -- the witch's kitchen, the lion, Totoro, Smokey the Bear. My favorite, in front of the general store, is a coppery pumpkin still with a pipe for smaller pumpkins at the top and vials of "pumpkin juice" at the bottom.

The whole idea, the celebration gave zest to the moning, as I stood there in the sea air watching the local weather man tip out of his pumpkin boat and swim to the dock.

So I'm issuing a challenge to the Berkshires: What can we make that can turn into something this much fun?

To reach Kate abbott:

kabbott@berkshireeagle.com

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