Low participation leads to cancellation of Humpy 500
The Humpy 500 go-cart race, a 20-year Petersburg tradition that saw local kids and families teaming up to build and decorate carts for racing down PFI hill, will come to end this year. The event has been held annually in October to celebrate the end of the canning and summer fishing seasons, but in recent years the number of participants has dwindled, said PFI Manager Patrick Wilson.
“Trying to energize the town, community and families to do it doesn’t seem to be working well,” he said. “So we’re gonna call it quits for now.”
Wilson said it’s been a good run. “All of us have enjoyed the excitement, the fantastic decorated race cars and wonderful costumes that always were a joy to see.”
The inaugural race was held in the early 1990s. “We started just as a fun event to celebrate the end of canning season,” Wilson said.
At first, trophies were awarded based on speed alone. “Originally the race was based on speed and then it was getting too fast, too wild. Kids were hitting 30 miles an hour,” Wilson recounted. “So we backed off and made the costumes as the center of attention and decorating the carts.”
That resulted in colorful and creative carts and costumes zooming down PFI hill, vying for trophies in three categories: speed, cart design and costumes.
“Over the years, we’ve seen amazing creativity,” Wilson said.
The event has become an annual tradition for some local families. Wilson mentioned the Murph family as one of many memorable participants.
“The Murph family always did a wonderful job,” he said. “They usually had a song, a jingle to go with it.”
Wilson said the event’s been around long enough to see two generations of participants.
“A lot of the kids that have gone through it have kids themselves these days,” he said.
In the early days, the event coincided with the Canned Salmon Classic and a Seafood Fest. The latter has since been discontinued, also due to a lack of participation, but the Canned Salmon Classic continues. The annual event allows entrants to guess the total canned salmon pack for the year. To participate, entrants pay a fee for a ticket, and the funds raised from the event go toward a $2,000 scholarship for a local student.
The event will close on Aug. 15 this year, after which processors will continue packing cans with locally harvested pink salmon for a few more weeks. Last year’s pack came in at just under 4.9 million cans, which has already been surpassed this summer.
Also a PFI tradition, a steam whistle was repeatedly blown last Thursday after the cannery hit the 100,000 case mark. That represents 4.8 million cans of salmon, a number that continues to climb as more pinks come in. Wilson said the coming weeks will likely be busy ones at the cannery as the pink harvest hits its peak.
“We’re hopeful that the next three weeks are very busy and the crews are steady,” he said.