For five years, thousands of folks have tried to win $500 by rolling a pumpkin down the M-15 hill and up a ramp into a barrel during Vassar’s Pumpkin Roll.
Luna Van Sipe, who moved into Vassar a few years back, put an end to the futility Oct. 15 by depositing her orb in the barrel.
And her pumpkin, well, is “the size of a grapefruit,” said Megan Van Sipe, Luna’s mother.
“We started to walk away a little bit after she rolled it, because when you roll these tiny little kids’ pumpkins, they just go off to the side normally,” said Megan Van Sipe, Luna’s mother. “I helped my 1-year-old (Auden) roll hers and it just kind of wobbled around and slowly rolled down the hill.
“Then Luna rolled hers and we started to get out of the way for the next people to start rolling. We looked back over and it went to the side but it started to curve back to the middle of the street, just from the stem, I think. “It went right up the center of the ramp and we said ‘Oh, yay, it hit the ramp!’ but we couldn’t tell if it went in the barrel, because we couldn’t see the barrel.”
The Van Sipes – the two children and Megan and her husband, Evan – didn’t realize Luna could win $500 by placing a pumpkin in the barrel.
“We didn’t even know what the prize was at first,” Megan Van Sipe said. “We didn’t realize it was money.”
Pumpkin Roll workers write a number on each pumpkin and a person paying 50 cents for a pumpkin signs his or her name on a ticket identifying that person as the roller of that particular pumpkin. Rollers then pay another 50 cents to roll the pumpkin down the hill, Megan Van Sipe said.
“It was a good investment,” Megan said.
After tossing their pumpkins, participants present their tickets to Pumpkin Roll volunteers to determine if they won any prizes. Those landing their orbs in barrels placed on their sides at the bottom of the hill win 2-liter bottles of pop.
“Someone else’s pumpkin went up the ramp and landed in the barrel, too, but they didn’t claim (the prize),” Van Sipe said. “(Pumpkin Roll organizers) told us to wait until Monday (Oct. 17) and they would call us if no one else came with their ticket.”
Once workers confirmed Luna’s pumpkin landed in the barrel, she asked about her award.
“She said ‘Do I get a trophy?’” Megan Van Sipe said. “I said ‘Well, you get money. Would you want to buy something with your money? What would you want to buy?’
“She said ‘A trophy.’”
Luna received a treat rather than a trophy later that day.
“She got some chocolate ice cream,” Megan Van Sipe said. “That’s good enough when you’re 4. That’s better than money. What is she going to do with money?”
Megan Van Sipe said she and her husband plan to open Luna’s first savings account at Frankenmuth Credit Union soon “so we can save that money for when she’s older and can make a smart choice with it.”
City of Vassar officials posted news of Luna’s triumph on the city’s Facebook page, generating many compliments from townsfolk, Megan Van Sipe said.
“I think people think it’s cool that a little 4-year-old won it,” Van Sipe said. “It kind of makes it funny. People have probably been trying really hard every year to win it by trying to aim perfectly and by getting the roundest pumpkin to win the prize.”
Steve Cook, owner of Cook GM Super Store in Vassar and the sponsor of the pumpkin-barrel challenge, presented Luna with a $500 check on Tuesday at Vassar City Hall.
Megan Van Sipe said one city official suggested the Pumpkin Roll give Luna the honor of rolling the first pumpkin next year. This year, that privilege went to Vassar Public Schools Superintendent Dorothy “Dot” Blackwell.
The Van Sipe family almost chose not to go to the Pumpkin Roll.
“We almost weren’t going to go, because we had my mom visiting earlier in the day and then they left, and my husband had to go to work later, so we had only 45 minutes to go there, park, roll pumpkins and get home for him to go to work,” Van Sipe said.
“But since Vassar’s so small, we thought parking would be fairly easy, which it was.”
Though Luna gratefully accepted the $500 check, her mother said the girl took it in stride.
“She has no concept of the check,” Van Sipe said. “If you had handed her a quarter or a dollar bill, she would have been pumped.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org