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Dokken: Pumpkin-paddling record set in October 2016 on the Red River appears to have been broken

According to a story posted Monday, Aug. 29, on the Washington Post website, Nebraska pumpkin paddler Duane Hanson on Saturday, Aug. 27, paddled an 846-pound pumpkin 38 miles down the Missouri River from Bellevue, Nebraska, to Nebraska City.

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Rick Swenson paddles down the Red River in a giant pumpkin Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, en route to setting the Guinness World Record for longest distance paddled in a pumpkin. Swenson paddled 26 miles from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minnesota, a distance that now has been broken by a Nebraska man who paddled 38 miles Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, on the Missouri River from Bellevue, Nebraska, to Nebraska City.
Brad Dokken/Grand Forks Herald
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Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken

GRAND FORKS — Oh no — say it isn’t so!

It was inevitable, I suppose, but it was brought to my attention the other day that a pumpkin-paddling record set in October 2016 on the Red River has been broken.

It’s not official until confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records, but according to a story posted Monday, Aug. 29, on the Washington Post website, Nebraska pumpkin paddler Duane Hanson on Saturday, Aug. 27, paddled an 846-pound pumpkin 38 miles down the Missouri River from Bellevue, Nebraska, to Nebraska City.

If confirmed, Hanson will break the record set by Rick Swenson of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, when he paddled a 1,086-pound giant pumpkin 26 miles from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minnesota, on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016.

Like Hanson, Swenson grew the pumpkin himself, along with the 1,057-pound brute he brought along as a backup but didn’t have to use.

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Not many people can say they grew their own boat.

It took nearly two years for the people at Guinness to confirm Swenson’s excursion as the record, so I’m assuming there won’t be anything official on Hanson’s recent pumpkin trek for quite some time. In Swenson’s case, he finally received confirmation Tuesday, June 12, 2018, that he had set the world pumpkin-paddling record.

It took nearly a year and a half, but an Underwood, Minn., man who paddled a giant pumpkin from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minn., in October 2016 officially is the World's Greatest Pumpkin Paddler.

It was quite a process, and Guinness’ strict list of criteria included providing a GPS record of the route, 2 minutes of video every hour and unaffiliated witnesses to observe both the start and finish of the trip.

Full disclosure: As an objective observer who reported on the event, I was one of those witnesses.

Responding to Monday’s news via Facebook Messenger, Swenson told me he’d already been interviewed earlier in the day by the Daily Mail in London. Like the good sport he is, Swenson took the news in stride.

“I’m super happy for him and will encourage anyone to do it also,” Swenson said of Hanson’s pumpkin-paddling accomplishment. “It’s been such a fun topic the last few years — easiest ice-breaker conversation ever.”

Reporting on Swenson’s record-setting pumpkin paddle that beautiful October day in 2016 ranks right up there with the most enjoyable stories I’ve ever covered. It’s not every day you get to watch someone paddle a giant pumpkin to gourd glory, after all.

Along with good friend Brad Durick, a Grand Forks catfish guide who supplied the boat, I spent several hours on the Red River following Swenson and the support crew who accompanied him on the river.

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We wouldn’t have had to follow Swenson throughout the day. After watching Swenson launch his pumpkin early that morning, I had filed a story for the Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, edition of the Grand Forks Herald by mid-morning. I’d met my deadline, but the novelty of watching Swenson paddle a giant pumpkin down the river throughout the day was too good to resist.

Plus, it was a beautiful day to be on the water.

We’d get ahead of Swenson by a few miles, drop anchor and fish, and then leapfrog back ahead when he passed by us on his downstream trek.

Rick Swenson pumpkin 10.15.16
Rick Swenson gives the thumbs-up Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, after completing his record-setting pumpkin paddle on the Red River from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minnesota.
Brad Dokken/Grand Forks Herald

The fishing was good that day, too, as I recall, and Durick, his son Braden and I caught several walleyes and even a hefty northern pike. It was a bit late in the year for catfish, which become less active as water temperatures drop, but I’m thinking we probably boated a few kitties, as well.

We caught a real mixed bag of fish that day.

That evening after we were off the water, I drove up to Oslo and was there, along with several other onlookers and well-wishers, when Swenson steered his pumpkin up to the boat ramp about 9 p.m.

“I’m glad we did it,” he told me upon completing the excursion. “It’s something goofy to do and have a fun time.”

Swenson also said that night that he didn’t know if he’d ever attempt another excursion on the scale of his record-setting quest from Grand Forks to Oslo. Now that his record has unofficially been broken, though, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised to see him attempt the feat once again — especially if he has a giant pumpkin that’s ready for action.

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One thing’s for sure: If he does, I want to be there to cover it.

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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