Carbondale’s Annual Great Pumpkin Race

If you happened to be walking downtown on Mill Street underneath the overpass this Saturday, October 30th you may have seen a large crowd full of kids and adults holding custom pumpkins with wheels. 

This was the annual Carbondale Pumpkin Race and Costume Parade. The annual event allows  people of all ages to compete, to see who has the best designed and the fastest pumpkins. On Saturday morning the town folk gather at Mill Street where they race their pumpkins down the hill as the first one to the bottom wins. The winner with the fastest pumpkin in the standard Pumpkin Race is awarded a trophy and a $100 prize, but there’s also the Mayor Branding Grand Prix where the pumpkin with the best time wins a cash prize of $250.

Although it was a cold and cloudy fall morning, the race was filled with community members wearing Halloween costumes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s festivities had to be canceled. People were excited to be back this year, competing with their fellow neighbors. The pandemic has taken its toll on everybody this past year and a half and people are starting to be comfortable being around large crowds again. No matter what the weather may be, people are still looking forward to having a sense of community.


Even though this event is designed to be a family fun event, there are some who try to get an edge and cheat, according to Marcia Sinnott, event organizer, since 2013.

“In case of a cheater pumpkin, Saluki alum and two time Olympian DeAnna Price with her great ‘Hammer of Justice’ will smash the pumpkin,” Sinnot said.

Many pumpkins were smashed throughout the day; some entrants were not pumpkins, but watermelons. Other participants were not interested in winning, and instead just wanted their pumpkins to be smashed. A big part of the race was the smashing of the pumpkins as kids would all chant “Smash it, smash it!” right before Price smashed it and the pumpkin guts splash all over the kids who cheered in excitement.

The race was filled with local celebrities like Price, Judge Diane Daugherty, who hosted the event; and Miss Illinois Isabelle Hanson, who was given the job of  “the great pumpkin catcher.” The audience loved the special guests who brought a charismatic and fun show to the street. There were many great pumpkins that were raced that day, but the winner was a  family with their mummy-themed pumpkin who won the trophy and got the $100 prize. 

The Great Pumpkin Race brings the community together as a Carbondale tradition. It will continue to bring the community together as they build creative and fun ideas with pumpkins they compete with their friends, family, and organizations. Attendance and participants are growing every year, and with more special guests making appearances, the future looks bright for the Great Pumpkin Race.

Staff Photographer Julian Castillo can be reached at @julcastillophotography. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.