January 26, 2022

Zucchinis with zoom

Suped-up veggies vie at county fair

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Elsie Donlick, 11, of Cortland, watches her wheeled zucchini on Wednesday.

To Shaun Sweeney, the sidelines at the track of the veggie car race at the Cortland County Junior Fair — a 20-foot length — were almost like the Watkins Glen race track.


“People are lining up,” said the member of the Cortland County Junior Fair board.

It was almost 11 a.m. Wednesday at the junior fairgrounds in Cortlandville — time for the veggie car race at the Cortland County Junior Fair — a tradition the last 10, 15 years, according to fair manager Dick Bush.

“The kids will make them on the spot: four wheels, four nails and a zucchini,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney and Bush had just erected the track, normally used by Boy Scouts for pinewood derby races, and about 25 children set about making their cars on tables.

“So you get zucchini and you get four nails and four wheels. And then so you put one wheel on each nail and hook it onto the zucchini,” said Trent Greenfield, 8, of Homer, who has done the race three times. “And you race against four other people and everyone gets a ribbon.”

This year, the prizes were little snack pouches.

Trent’s mother, Jennifer Greenfield, a teacher in the Homer School District, said her son is showing a calf at the junior fair, too. The junior fair, off Fairgrounds Drive, is free and goes through Saturday. Kids show farm animals for their excellent lines, grooming and marketability. And the kids are judged on their showmanship. There are exhibits and much more.

Eliza Greenfield, 5, of Homer, test-runs her zucchini racer Wednesday at the Junior Fairgrounds in Cortland.

Greenfield rents a calf for her son from Chad and Kim Butts in Homer and Trent trains her to go around the ring with no halter, a rope halter and then a show halter. The responsibility is good for her son and he gets to meet with his fair friends every summer, she said.

“I have been doing this for many years,” said Marybeth Ortlieb, 14, of Cortland, of the veggie car race. She was a winner, in fact, last year. She loaded down her zucchini with nails. “The more weight you have on the back, the faster it goes,” she said.

Winners of the various heats were: Eliza Greenfield, 5, of Homer in the youngest division. Katie Champion, 7, of Lisle for the 6 to 9 division and Nate Crispett, 10, of Harford, in the 10 and older heat. He had a series of nails pushed in from the bottom so points were on top of his vehicle. “It’s to make it look cool but also, to make it aerodynamic,” he said.

He was ambivalent about winning. “I do it every year cause it’s fun.”

“I think I did a great job,” said Katie Champion. She had her stickers of teddy bears on the zucchini lined up like passengers in her car. And she had six wheels, which no one said a peep about, that may have given her an edge.

“It teaches them to be creative and figure out how to get the wheels on the track right, said Wayne Schutt, a fair board director. “It’s kind of based on Cub Scouts. They have pinewood derby. It’s the same idea, but we use a zucchini.”