Nebraska Man Claims Record for Longest Journey by Pumpkin Boat

The 861-pound pumpkin sailed for 11 hours down the Missouri River.

A huge pumpkin
Photo: Jan Tyler / Getty Images

The hobby of giant pumpkin growing is surprisingly serious. Every autumn, weigh-offs are held and prize money is awarded, with the ultimate bragging rights going to whoever holds the Guinness World Record for "Heaviest Pumpkin" — currently, Italian grower Stefano Cutrupi whose 2,702-plus-pound pumpkin set the record last September.

But as a Nebraska man recently proved, just because your pumpkin doesn't achieve an award-winning weight, doesn't mean you can't still nab a Guinness World Record of your own: Duane Hansen hollowed out his pumpkin and rode it down the Missouri river, breaking the world record for "Longest Journey by Pumpkin Boat (Paddling)."

At a "mere" 861 pounds, Big Berta — or as Hansen later christened it, S.S. Berta — wasn't going to set any records for size. Still, the Syracuse, Nebraska, resident told News Channel Nebraska the gourd with a 146-inch circumference was the largest he had ever grown. "I've been trying to do this — to grow a giant pumpkin — for eight or ten years," he said. "It's that tough."

Navigating the pumpkin down the river wasn't easy either. Along the record-breaking 41-mile journey — an 11-hour trip from Bellevue to Nebraska City — Hansen had to avoid rocks and sandbars and regularly worry about taking on water, especially from the wakes of passing boats, to best the previous record of 25.5 miles set in 2016. "You've got to be on top of it the whole time — the whole time," he continued. "The boats leave the waves and you've got to stop everything and just hold on and ride with those waves. That was bad."

But Hansen also had a bit of help from one of the best, saying he had met a previous record-holder at a pumpkin growing seminar. "I asked her a lot of questions and that's when I decided I wanted to do this," he was quoted as saying. "You can drink beer in the pumpkin. I mean I just asked her questions and that happened to be one of them."

Speaking of which, though Hansen believes he followed all the rules properly, he doesn't have the record quite yet. Guinness World Records told CNN that the organization has received his application but it is still under review.

Regardless, Hansen seemed content with his attempt. "I ain't gonna do this again," he said. "I'm done with this."

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