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Zucchini 500 races happen at dozens (if not, hundreds) of farmers’ markets across the continent. One of our board members got wind of the idea in 2014 via Farmers Markets Ontario and set it in motion. 2019 is our sixth year!

Some fun snaps from races over the years – Click to see full size.

We did minimal research before deciding how to make this zany concept our own. We improvised the rules based on what we thought they should be. To this day we (at least I,) have no idea what the Zucchini 500 rules are at other markets….nor how they spell zucchini!

As you may know, Kingston is blessed with a seriously talented hodge-podge of community arts types and dedicated volunteers….

Our friends at Minotaur Games & Gifts thought it was a riot and offered up much of the early sweat and elbow grease. The (sadly no more) Kingston Makerspace agreed that “making stuff with tools” is always an excellent time. We were all very lucky to capture the imagination of Bill Racz at Loyalist Scouting who agreed that their specialized KubKar track was a great fit for the event too, and could prevent the potential disappointment of squash with wayard wheels! Kingston Community Credit Union had an outreach table that first year, and we thought it would be a lark for them to do the “paperwork” at the registration table. With the exception of Kingston Makerspace, those roles remain unchanged!

Those of us who were around the table that first year, came up with this:

  • This is about silly fun and self-expression
  • Must have a building party the day before
  • Must be non-competitive
  • Prize Draws for everyone!
  • Fastest Car wins bragging rights and wears the super-glitzy Zucchini 500 Champion Belt for the remainder of their visit at market.

This is the belt.

We try to add a little something more to it each year.

The race was an instant hit. Everyone loved this unique addition to market. We are in awe each year of the creativity and ingenuity on display.

Over the years, we’ve learned that the exact aerodynamic properties of any given garden zucchini are infinitely varied and therefore unknowable. We are surprised each year by who wins. In 2015, everyone was stunned when the winner was a 3 year old who had made minimal (no) alterations to their vegemobile, save a Playmobil passenger. Folks who try to take this race too seriously, or are “in it to win it” are the most likely to leave disappointed.

Snaps from the 2018 car-making party at Minotaur. Click to see full size.

The Family Survival Kit

Despite (and because of) all the excitement and anticipation that comes with being part of the races, we’ve collected some helpful tips for everyone looking to get the most out of their experience:

  1. Know that it’s happening. We’re doing our best to get the word out and encourage folks to plan to be there rather than stumble across it. Because…
  2. It’s WAY easier to make the car in advance! It reduces the overall amount of time spent at market (especially if your wee’uns can only manage a 20-45min stay) and frees up table space for those who truly stumble across it. Pick up a KubKar kit (or old kubkar) from a (thrift) shop, online, or from market starting July 7th.
  3. Use colourful stuff out of the recycling bin to decorate! Get creative! No need to buy stuff, though we’ll have a great stash of donated supplies to work with at Minotaur & at market.
  4. There will be hot glue guns and sharp things at our maker tables. We have plenty of volunteers available, but we ultimately look to parents and caregivers to help out and assess what they are comfortable with their kids using.
  5. You can always just watch the first year. If you don’t have the time to stay for the whole event, make a point to arrive between 11:00 and 12:00 to admire the artwork and cheer on the racers!
  6. We offer test runs on the track at 10:30am before the races begin. This is the best time to make any last minute adjustments before the races begin in earnest.
  7. The winning heat might run as late as 12:00, which is still a long time to be at market on a hot day… which is another reason to register in advance and make a car at home or at our building party the day before.
  8. Plan to have snacks or eat lunch beforehand. As the races run late morning through lunch time, it’s best to prevent hangry racers by having an early lunch or snacks on hand.
  9. Try to manage your expectations. You never know who is going to win. We take 1 car from each heat into the next round. This means if you happen to share a heat with the winning car, you may be eliminated long before you thought you should be. Be cool, like a cucumber corvette!
  10. Please return the car base. Our die-hard families re-use the same bases each year, but if you aren’t sure from year to year, it’s also easy to return it for someone else to use next year. In turn, we are committed to offering a free event for years to come!

Thank you for reading. Here’s to many more startlingly stunning examples of vegeful vehicular expression!

Register here

Jolene Simko

Jolene Simko has blogged 100 posts