Pumpkin Run Road Rally roaring back this May

Pandemic canceled 2020 event in Millsboro


MILLSBORO — Delmarva residents should get ready to put on their rally caps. Stalled due to COVID-19 in 2020, Millsboro’s Pumpkin Run Road Rally returns this year, with more cars and an anniversary celebration during the three-day event, May 21-23.

“We didn’t have it last year (due to) the pandemic,” said Bob Bryan, chairman of the event. “So this will be our 20th rally in Millsboro.”

Like previous rallies, the 2021 Pumpkin Run will support the Millsboro Fire Co.

A full field of 50 teams — driver/navigator tandems from across America — is expected to take part in the 100-mile half-day rallies Friday and Sunday, as well as the full 200-mile rally Saturday.

Classic vehicles (such as a 1916 Hudson Hillclimber), dirt track racers from the 1930s, Mustangs and Ford coupes are among the makes and models expected for the rally, which is not a test of top speed but a timed, controlled endurance and navigation trial.

Each day, teams receive precise instructions that detail every move down to the second. They are scored at secret checkpoints along the way and are penalized one second for each second either early or late. The lowest score wins.

Because the Pumpkin Run is a regional rally, cars from any year are eligible. However, those participating in the larger Great Race in late June must be pre-1973 vehicles.

“For regionals, we say, ‘You pay, you play,’” Mr. Bryan said. “Now, you do get penalty on your timecard for having a newer car, because it (is) much easier to drive a new car than one of the old ones (and) to maintain speeds.”

Mr. Bryan, who served 18 years as president of the North East Rally Club until relinquishing the reins a couple years ago, is limiting Millsboro’s event to 50 cars.

As of Tuesday, he had received 47 entries, with participants hailing from Oregon, California, Texas, Illinois, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

A couple potential entries from Canada met a roadblock due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“I had two from Canada, and they’ve had to cancel because they can’t come across the border,” Mr. Bryan said.

This year, opportunity knocked for a calendar shift for the Pumpkin Run, which has traditionally been an autumn event. A spring opening was created because a rally staged previously in the Midwest is no longer being held.

“We had the opportunity to change it to spring. We get more cars in the spring because people want to practice for the Great Race. That is why people are coming from California and different places,” Mr. Bryan said.

The course laid out by Mr. Bryan — which is not revealed to teams until they receive directions and instructions — encompasses various parts of the Delmarva Peninsula. Teams receive instructions Friday before lunch. Teams depart for the rallies at staggered one-minute intervals.

“All they know is to go two lights and turn left,” Mr. Bryan said. “Sometimes, I don’t even tell them the name of the road. So they have no idea of where they are or where they are going.”

On the road, rally participants must travel at speeds under the posted limit.

“We always go under speed limit a minimum 5 mph, sometimes more. We never run cars over 50 mph,” said Mr. Bryan.

The rally starts west of Millsboro, with a sequential lineup along Mission Road, in view of the Donald Collins farm, where there is ample parking and even restrooms.

“I used to have to rent a port-a-potty to put out there. (Mr. Collins) has put in bathrooms — men’s and women’s — toilets, sinks, everything for us. He loves to have the cars come there,” said Mr. Bryan.

The entry fee is $400 per team. It includes awards; lunch and dinner Friday; breakfast, lunch and dinner Saturday; and brunch Sunday. Millsboro Fire Co. Auxiliary members prepare the food.

A portion of entry fees goes to the fire company, along with proceeds from auctions and raffles. On average, the rally typically generates about $7,500 for the fire company.

“Each team is asked (to) bring a nice item, either to be auctioned or raffled off, or a minimum $50 donation,” Mr. Bryan said.

For the 20th-anniversary celebration, 20 prizes will be awarded to participating teams — laptop computers, televisions, coolers and other items. Prizes are sponsored by Bob Harrington at Watson Funeral Home in Millsboro, Mr. Bryan said.

Local businesses, including Mountaire Farms, Wawa, Bailey’s Seafood and others, also are offering support.

Millsboro Fire Co. member John Hall, a longtime Pumpkin Run volunteer, noted that this year’s event will be different with the recent passing of Lynn Bullock, the former mayor of Millsboro.

“We lost our lifetime checkpoint worker, Lynn Bullock,” said Mr. Hall. “This would have been his 20th year. He loved the rally.”

For more information, visit the North East Rally Club's website.