CARBONDALE — Hannah Banana won it by a stem.
The 100 pound, plus-sized pumpkin, sponsored by the Neighborhood Co-op, beat out 200 pound monster Liam's Pumpkin by a fraction of a second Saturday, taking the grand prize in the 5th annual Carbondale Pumpkin Race.
Francis Murphy, general manger of The Co-op, was clearly taken by the surprise victory, almost at a loss for words.
"I think this is great," he said as his team was presented with the $500 purse provided by Mayer Branding. Murphy said they planned to donate the winnings, but said because they hadn't anticipated coming away with a win, they were not sure to whom the money would go.
Steering was the clear issue for teams — many contestants couldn't keep straight on the track, coming up short as a result. In fact, one pumpkin's wheels locked and instead of gliding down the hill tumbled end over end — not a winner but a clear crowd favorite.
In a pre-race comment, Murphy said the key to success in his team's eyes were the axles. They had weight to their advantage but without a straight, even ride, they knew the wouldn't have a chance.
Contest rules state that the axles needed to go through the pumpkin. Entrants that were deemed not to be street-legal in the short, quarter block race, met a grizzly fate — they came under the hammer of Olympian and former SIU field event star DeAnna Price.
The event was co-sponsored by The Rotary Club of Carbondale-Breakfast in conjunction with Carbondale Main Street. Aur Beck, president of the club, said the event was a perfect example of what Rotary does — provide free fun that raises money for good causes.
Marcia Sinnott took the idea for the race five years ago from a family visit to Oswego. She said when she saw the event there she knew it would be perfect in Carbondale.
"I thought it would fill a great niche," she said.
Given Carbondale's checkered past with the Halloween holiday, Beck said the Pumpkin Race helped provide a way for the community to celebrate in a big, but controlled way.
"We are taking to the streets positively," Beck said.
This story has been updated to correctly identify Mayer Branding as the provider of the race's prize money.