The pumpkin regatta.

Gardening: A conspiracy of orange

Reports of people flailing around in giant orange inflatables on Whonnock Lake back in August.

Strange things have been happening of late.

First, there were reports of people flailing around in giant orange inflatables on Whonnock Lake back in August.

Then, two weeks ago, local hikers and cyclists were greeted by a blur of orange projectiles racing down the slopes, with many of these ending with gushy explosions being applauded by pumpkin-headed aliens.

Perhaps the weirdest of all these goings-on were to be found at the Thornhill Hall that evening. A group of yet-to-be-identified persons – some dressed as witches with orange cones on their heads, others with hypnotic flashing necklaces – spent hours rolling huge vegetables into the hall, to what purpose one can only guess.

That evening the facility was filled with people chanting and eating some sort of ceremonial banquet, with many of them leaving with symbolic medallions draped around their necks.

Yes, indeed, strange things seem to be happening in Whonnock.

That being said, there is no need to be alarmed. We don’t have to contact Mully or Sculder about this potential X-File, as this community conspiracy is just that, a plot to bring neighbors together.

It all began seven years ago, when the chief schemers Klaus and Betty von Hardenberg decided to find a way to usher local people, both young and old, closer together using the most devious of interventions – growing giant pumpkins.

Little did the participants know that the pumpkins were but a slight of hand, a ruse to bring people from different backgrounds together and allow them the opportunity to get to know each other a little better.

For the most part, many of the invitees have been from the Whonnock area, but outsiders such as myself (a townhouse-dwelling East Maple Ridger) have also been allowed into the inner circle of this mysterious sect.

Over the years we have all seen our fair share of ‘Giant Atlantic’ pumpkins, with some being larger and others minuscule, depending on the weather and secret fertilizer recipes.

Thus far, my household has been under the pumpkin curse, as all of our efforts have only resulted in a potential candidate for the smallest giant pumpkin grown, and yet even here we were thwarted by a tinier entry.

The weigh-in is a sombre event with the serious contenders always waiting until the last minute to sever their beast from the vine, in the hopes that those last few hours of nutrient intake will be the difference between the best in show and those that are soon forgotten.

This same spirit of competition pervades the pumpkin rolling contest, where shape, not size determines who makes it down the hill the furthest.

My hopes were dashed when my hefty Pitt-Meadows-grown competitor exploded just as it was rolling towards first place – an inexplicable circumstance that had me looking for jealous snipers in the adjacent forest.

The ‘Pumpkineers’ (this is the proper name of the pumpkin devotees) are also given to many strange idiosyncrasies, such as eating the vegetable they venerate – as pumpkin pie, pumpkin fusilli, pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin cheesecake are common entrees and desserts at their ritualist banquets.

Then there’s their affinity for wearing orange attire or creating custom-made watercraft in the image of the revered cucurbit – as evidenced by the unusual regatta held last August.

By all appearances, this conspiracy of orange has had some significant impacts on our community – including many smiles, newfound friendships, the sharing of food and a breakdown of the age barrier – and for that we say thanks to Betty and Klaus.


– Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (


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