Going strong for more than 50 years, the Knights Ferry Pumpkin Roll brings competitors from around the region and even as far away as the Bay Area to try their hand at rolling a gourd along Main Street. Closest to the line wins; the event is always staged the first Sunday after Halloween and, this year, is set for Nov. 5. Remember to ‘fall back’ – turn your clocks back an hour Saturday night – so you don’t get there too early.
“I helped start it,” said longtime Knights Ferry resident Lee Shearer of the Pumpkin Roll.
He served as the self-proclaimed “Grand Poohbah” of the event for decades.
Shearer said that he and Lucille Ulrich combined forces to draw up the ‘rules’ of the contest and the first Sunday in November was chosen as the official date. That also happens to be the Sunday after Halloween, so pumpkins are still readily available.
For many years, the pumpkins for the competition have been provided by Manteca-based George Perry and Sons. The 2016 Pumpkin Roll, according to the trophies presented, was the 53rd annual, making the 2017 edition the 54th time rollers will gather to send the pumpkins down the street.
Two competition sites are offered, with the younger set taking to the tennis courts adjacent to the hamlet’s Community Clubhouse on Main Street for their ‘roll off’ that starts at noon. After the youngsters have gone, the competition moves to Main Street, where the senior rollers, 65 and older, start the pumpkins on their way. Then, by age group and with both male and female divisions for each, rollers are from 6 to 12; 13 to 18; and 19 and older.
“We had about 400 rollers last year,” Shearer said of the 2016 competition.
Based on the age divisions, there are ‘finish lines’ marked out at various distances from the starting point; the roller in each age division that gets closest to the line wins.
There is no entry fee, though Shearer said donations are accepted and any made are turned over to the Community Club for expenses in keeping the local clubhouse open for residents to enjoy, helping with insurance, maintenance and the like.
In addition, the first Sunday of each month is known as ‘Breakfast Sunday in the Ferry,’ when the Odd Fellows Hall is the site for a hearty breakfast at a nominal charge. Also on sale during the day are pumpkin rolls – the kind with cream cheese and fluffy cake – at a cost of $15.
There’s a craft fair set up in the Community Clubhouse as well, with a few booths spilling out onto the adjacent tennis courts.