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Manhattan Beach Carries On Beloved Pumpkin Race Tradition

Oct 26, 2021 08:27AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Ava and Lane Stoddard, center, display their winning pumpkin at the Manhattan Beach Pumpkin Race. Photo via Manhattan Beach Department of Parks and Rec

The World Famous Pumpkin Race took over Downtown Manhattan Beach on Sunday, drawing kids, families, and community members for what has become a beloved tradition.

The race returned after having been canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Sunday's event was the 30th running of the race.

"The event really was a success, and it has been wonderful seeing the community‚Äôs favorite events return this year," said Jessica Vincent, the communications and civic engagement manager for Manhattan Beach. 

The winners of the community race were:

1st Place: Ava & Lane Stoddard from Mira Costa High School
2nd Place: Ryan Knowlton from Manhattan Academy
3rd Place: William Shroeder from Grand View Elementary
4th Place: Finn Stoddard from Grand View Elementary

The pumpkin race was created in Manhattan Beach on Halloween Eve in 1990 by Karl Rogers, Michael Aaker and John Holliday. They invented the Pumpkin Racer design and developed the Pumpkin Race format for guests attending Karl's birthday party.  

The fun and quirky event was such a hit with their friends that they insisted that they run the race again the following year, and a new tradition was born. The World Famous Pumpkin Race, which later moved to Downtown Manhattan Beach and is now sponsored by the city, has become a must-attend annual tradition for thousands of residents in Manhattan Beach and the South Bay area.

Behind the Scenes of a Winning Pumpkin

Manhattan Beach Councilmember Joe Franklin emerged as the 2021 winner of races among city officials. His pumpkin won the City Council race, and then went on to win against Wayne Powell (of the Senior Advisory Committee), who had earlier won the City Commissions race.

Franklin, who had invited his young neighbors to help him create a pumpkin for the race that they called the "Pine Ave. Racer," told DigMB that creating the pumpkin racer was a true group effort.

"Not having my grandkids close by, I asked a family I have known for years on our Pine Ave block if their three daughters would like to help me put together and decorate the pumpkin," Franklin said. "I received an enthusiastic 'Yes!' from Annie (10), Mackenzie (8) and Katy (5). Between soccer games and other events over the weekend, the pumpkin took shape. They decorated it in a beach theme and their dad, Jason, and I assembled the axels and the kids put on the wheels. We must have conducted 20 trial runs on Pine Avenue - hence the name, 'Pine Ave Racer.' We made adjustments as best we could - several neighbors came by to offer advice - and set off for the track."

Franklin added: "The kids were thrilled to win the trophy, which they have proudly displayed in their home. They learned a good lesson about team work, working hard, and practice, practice, practice!"

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