Community Festival winner to star in pumpkin drop

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Planning a pumpkin drop is all about physics. KAHI radio and the Old Town Business Association have secured the first-place winner of the Auburn Community Festival’s giant pumpkin contest, along with two smaller festival entries for the drop, to be held in conjunction with the Safe Trick or Treat event Friday. But it turns out that Auburn resident Randy Warren’s 1,149-pound record-breaker will fall at approximately 63 miles per hour, creating a 53,000-pound force of impact if dropped from 140 feet. That’s per calculations from Mike Janus, physics teacher at Placer High. Dropping the pumpkin from 100 feet would take the numbers down about 30 percent, he said Tuesday. So organizers were busy working with the city of Auburn Tuesday to resolve safety and logistical concerns. “We don’t want a sinkhole in the middle of the street,” said Ty Rowe, Old Town Business Association representative. As plans stand now, Warren’s behemoth, along with a 245-pounder and a 345-pounder grown by Randy and Cheryl Maki, will be dropped at approximately 4:30 p.m. in Old Town’s central square. But the site could change depending on the results of a trial drop Thursday, Rowe said. “If we have to change the location, because of splatter (concerns), it will be moved to Lincoln Way, just past Tsuda’s Old Town Eatery,” Rowe said. Permits were being finalized Tuesday. “We have a green light from the city with all the stipulations,” Rowe said. “It’s all about public safety.” Earlier in the day Bob Richardson, Auburn city manager, indicated the city was open to the idea. “We’re happy to assist and make this work for them,” he said. “We’re just waiting to get all the specific information of what they’d like to do.” The city will provide the needed law-enforcement presence. There will also be a road closure for two to three hours Friday afternoon, Rowe said. KAHI’s Dave Rosenthal, who will broadcast live on 950 AM in Old Town beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, said preparations for the smashdown will include putting down two 4-foot by 8-foot steel plates to diffuse the force of the drop. “And we’re putting up a double-decker hay bale barrier, courtesy of Echo Valley Ranch,” hel said. “(The pumpkin) will hit, compress upon itself and shoot out. So the hay bales should knock down anything flying.” Another safety measure is ensuring the crane and safety harness, to be provided by Auburn Crane, are secured properly, according to KAHI general sales manager Mike Remy. Recology Auburn Placer is furnishing green recycling tubs for cleanup, he said. The pumpkins will have the seeds removed, which will cut down on debris — and reduce a bit of the weight. At least one of the smaller pumpkins will be filled with candy. “It’s the reverse piñata effect,” Rosenthal said. “Instead of hitting it with a stick, it hits the bricks.” The idea for the drop came from Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin — “Linus will finally see the great pumpkin flying through the late-afternoon sky of Auburn,” Rosenthal said. Remy has viewed several pumpkin drops at other radio stations — the biggest about 75 pounds. “It just collapses on itself and spreads out,” he said. “Most of the inside of the pumpkin gets splattered. It’s a big poof, just like a vegetable falling to Earth. It’s quite an interesting sight.” Gloria Young can be reached at