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Wide body chassis rules in Manhattan Beach pumpkin race

October 30, 2011 |  8:59 pm


The winner had a wide-body chassis, low slung to the ground like the pumpkin that whisked Cinderella into the night after the ball.

It also had a novel design, cribbing from in-line skates, to make it whiz past competitors and claim the title to the 21st Annual World Famous Pumpkin Race in Manhattan Beach.

"Innovation won this year," said Karl Rogers, the race's organizer and lifelong Manhattan Beach resident. "Sometimes it's luck; sometimes it's design. This year's winner had an innovative design."

This year's race attracted an estimated 12,000 people, Rogers said, to watch 814 pumpkins compete for fame, and in some cases infamy: smashed to smithereens by an oversized wooden Mallet-O-Justice. This squash mashup has become an annual highlight as competitors who knowingly violate the rules by bringing in ringers, such as a dolled up watermelons painted orange or affixing pumpkins to skateboards that run fast and true.

"Surprisingly, people want to be caught cheating," Rogers said. The referees in black and white striped shirts call them out and with great fanfare, pummel the pumpkins to a pulp, much to the delight of kids watching the race.

The key to a top-notch squash is aligning independent axles and wheels perfectly parallel so the pumpkin-mobile will head straight down the hill of Manhattan Beach Boulevard without veering off course.

Rogers, an internet software entrepreneur who dreamed up the race decades ago, said this year's winner has reconfigured the design in a way he's never seen: channels scooped out for the axles running front to back, instead of side to side.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

 Photo: Competitors cheer on their pumpkins during the 21st Annual Pumpkin Race near the Manhattan Beach Pier on Sunday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times