What Do You Get A Gardener For His Birthday? A Ride In An 800-Lb Pumpkin!

Duane Hansen and Berta the giant pumpkin

With his 60th birthday approaching, Duane Hansen was looking for a way to make his mark on the world.

The Syracuse, Nebraska man found the challenge he’d been looking for by accident. While attending a three-day giant pumpkin growing seminar in Portland, Oregon, he struck up a conversation with a woman who held the world record for paddling a giant pumpkin down a river.

“At the time it was 25-something miles,” Duane recalled. “And I asked her a lot of questions and that’s when I decided I wanted to do this.”

The gardening enthusiast has been trying to grow a giant pumpkin for years, but had never grown one beyond 200 or 400 pounds. This year, however, he painstakingly tended to his patch, netting and misting the gourd until it was growing 15 pounds every day. When he finally cut “Berta” from the vine, she was 861 pounds and 146 inches around.

Duane hollowed Berta out and used a fork lift to pull her out of the patch. Then he asked authorities in the city of Belleview, Nebraska, where he intended to launch the vessel, to serve as witnesses for his world record attempt.

Once he was cleared for takeoff, Duane climbed aboard on his birthday and launched Berta from the banks of the Missouri River. His friends and family gathered to cheer him on. His sister, Yvonne Hansen, even flew to Nebraska from San Diego, California to supervise the Guinness World Records documentation.

“When we first got started it went real quick, like the first five miles felt like nothing,” Yvonne said. “Once we got about 18 miles in, it started feeling like ‘wow, this is a long trip.'”

As you can imagine, it isn’t easy paddling (or steering) a pumpkin! Duane says rocks and sand bars posed a very real danger, and every time a boat went by, he struggled to keep the gourd from flooding.

“You’ve got to be on top of it the whole time — the whole time,” he said later.

Duane passed the mark for the world record 577 miles after he set out, but he decided to keep going to Nebraska City. The total passage was 38 miles long and took him 11 hours of paddling.

While Guinness World Records has to verify the record, Duane and his family are confident that he’s the new record holder! His daughter, Morgan Buchholz, said her dad always does what he sets his mind to do.

“I’m so proud of my dad…” she said. “He has always said that you can do anything you want and how can you not believe somebody who goes out and does exactly what he wants and I’m just so proud.”

Duane is happy to have achieved his goal, but says he has no plans to ever do that again! We can’t blame him, but we’re so glad he pulled it off. We can’t wait to see what he has in mind for his 70th!

Share this story to congratulate Duane on his new world record.

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