On August 27, 60-year-old Duane Hansen of Syracuse, Nebraska, set out to break a world record with the 846-pound pumpkin he had grown. What mattered to Hansen was not the weight of the squash but rather the distance it might travel.
Hansen carved and hollowed his massive pumpkin to accommodate a crew of one. With a circumference of approximately 146 inches, the pumpkin, which Hansen dubbed the SS Berta, fit Hansen comfortably. It was designed not for wheels but for waves.
On Saturday morning, Hansen took the SS Berta down to Bellevue’s banks on the Missouri River. At 7:30 a.m., dressed in denim shorts, a lifejacket and a camouflage hat, Hansen sliced the water with his yellow paddle and then set off on his pumpkin expedition.
Friends, family and Bellevue officials waved him on from the public boat docks.
Bellevue Public Schools school board representative Phil Davidson marveled at the attempt: “I did not realize he was going to be sitting in the pumpkin, riding in the pumpkin all the way down there … I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Hansen’s goal was clear. On October 15, 2016, Rick Swenson of Minnesota paddled his pumpkin boat down the Red River connecting Grand Forks in North Dakota with Breckenridge, Minnesota. Swenson set a record for longest journey by pumpkin boat, having traveled 25.5 miles. To set a Guinness World Record, Hansen would have to best Swenson via the Missouri.
Hansen hit the 25.5 mile mark at 2:52 p.m., thereby squashing Swenson’s previous record, though claiming best was not good enough.
The 60-year-old carried on for another four hours until he reached Nebraska City. 38 miles downstream, he was greeted by fans, friends, and family.
His daughter Morgan Buchholz told News Channel Nebraska: “I’m so proud of my dad … He has always said that you can do anything you want and how can you not believe somebody who goes out and does exactly what he wants?”
Her father first determined this record was something he wanted at a giant pumpkin growing seminar in Portland, Oregon. “I met this lady that had the record,” Hansen said. “At the time it was 25-something miles. And I asked her a lot of questions.”
The veteran pumpkin rider allegedly told Hansen that “You can drink beer in the pumpkin.” Although it is unclear whether that answer swayed him, Hansen nevertheless made sure to carve a cup holder into the SS Berta.
Hansen admits that executing his plan was daunting at times. “Not swamping it” proved his greatest challenge. To satisfy the requirements of the Guinness challenge, Hansen would have to remain atop the pumpkin at all times. “The boats leave the waves and you’ve got to stop everything and just hold on and ride with those waves. That was bad.”
After traveling 38 miles in his pumpkin vessel without standing, Hansen said his knees hurt and that he didn’t intend to defend the record. “If somebody breaks this record, I will bow down to them because they are tough.”
KOAM News reported that Guinness World Record adjudicators are reviewing the evidence prior before making a decision with regards to the validity of the record.
Nebraska Pumpkin Grower Paddles The Missouri River to Set World Record