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Minnesotan to ride pumpkin down Red River to break world record

FERGUS FALLS --A Fergus Falls man who grows giant pumpkins is hoping to earn a place in the Guinness World Records. Rick Swenson says he plans to launch a giant pumpkin Saturday morning on the Red River in Grand Forks and paddle downstream to Osl...

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FERGUS FALLS -A Fergus Falls man who grows giant pumpkins is hoping to earn a place in the Guinness World Records.

Rick Swenson says he plans to launch a giant pumpkin Saturday morning on the Red River in Grand Forks and paddle downstream to Oslo, Minn., a distance of about 26 river miles.

The existing pumpkin-paddling record is about 8 miles, Swenson said, set earlier this year on a river in Pennsylvania.

Swenson said he came up with the idea as a way to one-up a friend who grows giant pumpkins in Lancaster, Minn., and drops one on a car every fall.

In more ways than one, Swenson is paddling into the unknown.

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"I don't know how long it's going to take," he said. "It's going to boil down to a comfort thing. I'll bring a small cooler to sit on, which is fairly comfortable but low to the ground. I want to stay low because balance-wise, it's going to help me a lot."

The pumpkin, which is flat on the bottom, weighs 1,086 pounds but will tip the scales at slightly less than that after Swenson removes the innards and hollows out a place to sit. He said the pumpkin measures about 14 feet around but isn't long enough to require a license.

The shell of the pumpkin is at least 10 inches thick, Swenson said, meaning the craft should be able to withstand most logs or deadheads he might encounter on the river.

"I'm excited," Swenson said. "If there's good current, it might go quick; I don't know.

"I don't mind hitting logs."

Swenson said he's most nervous about following Guinness' strict guidelines for setting the record, which include using paddles instead of oars and having two people on hand to witness both ends of the trip. He's attempting the record as a promotion for the Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton, N.D., where he displays giant pumpkins every fall the day before Halloween.

The aspiring pumpkin paddler says he plans to haul the stupendous squash to the zoo after setting the record.

"I think I'm fully confident in the trip," Swenson said. "I'm confident in the pumpkin."

Related Topics: FERGUS FALLSRED RIVER
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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