People have different ways of celebrating their milestone birthdays, but not many think about taking a ride on a river…in a giant pumpkin. This year, Nebraska resident Duane Hansen celebrated his 60th birthday by doing what most people would consider almost impossible: traveling down the Missouri river in an 846-pound pumpkin—one that he grew himself—to achieve a world record.
According to a post on Facebook by the City of Bellevue, Nebraska, Hansen walked into the Mayor’s office to ask if a couple of people from Bellevue City Hall would serve as official witnesses. He needed people other than friends and family to document his ride, in order for his attempt to be recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Those who agreed to go along initially thought that his intention was to float a pumpkin down the river, and were taken aback when they realized he intended for the pumpkin to be his actual boat.
Hansen hopped into the pumpkin at the Bellevue Marina on August 27, the day after his birthday, at approximately 7:30 a.m., in order to make the trip to Nebraska City in his 846-pound pumpkin. The witnesses from City Hall, as well as Hansen’s friends and family, were on the bank to cheer on his incredible journey in the impressively sized vegetable. A few of his supporters traveled alongside Hansen in a boat, in case of any unforeseen mishaps.
Fortunately, it was smooth sailing—or paddling—all the way, apart from the rocks, sand banks, waves, and other boats that Hansen had to navigate. Staying upright in the pumpkin boat was also a challenge, but he managed to maintain his position for the full course. Underestimating what he had taken on, Hansen initially thought that the unusual river ride would be around six hours. He surpassed the 25.5 mile at 2:52 p.m., happily breaking the previous record for the longest journey by pumpkin boat. Hansen continued a further 12 miles before finally arriving at the Marina at Nebraska City at just after 6:30 p.m. His journey spanned 38 miles and took well over 11 hours to complete.
“Congratulations Duane for smashing the world record,” the City of Bellevue, Nebraska, wrote in their social media post about the unusual feat. “We are proud that you started this record breaking 38 mile journey in Bellevue and it's been fun to follow along.”
So how exactly did this 60-year-old come up with the wacky yet ambitious feat to mark a milestone birthday? It turns out that Hansen has grown pumpkins and other gourds for many years. His idea began five years ago, when he attended a three-day pumpkin-growing seminar. Hansen’s destiny began to take shape when he met a woman at the seminar who held the world record for the longest pumpkin ride at the time. He was instantly inspired to sail in his own pumpkin boat, and attempt to beat her record. The next few years were spent growing his perfect-sized pumpkin, which he named the SS Berta.
According to the Guinness World Records, before Hansen, the record holder was Rick Swenson, who sailed the Red River Between Minnesota and North Dakota by pumpkin in 2016. Hansen's application to the Guinness World Records to take over this achievement is in, and is currently being reviewed.