CHESTERTON | At 15 months old, Jack Bell needed some help painting the large green zucchini and placing it on top of the small ramp that served as the starting gate for the Zucchini 500 competition.
Yet he seemed to enjoy watching the vegetable tumble down to the pavement below and hearing the excitement of the many extended family members gathered to support him.
"He clapped for himself," said his aunt, Morgan Bell of Valparaiso.
Jack Bell, who was visiting Saturday from Nashville, Tenn., took part in the annual competition held during Chesterton's weekly European Market.
"We need shirts to say Jack's fan club," said the boy's great-great aunt, Jan Pool, of Chesterton.
The zucchini race is in its fourth year, said Duneland Chamber of Commerce Marketing Director Allyson Baughman.
"It's a great way to get kids to engage with a vegetable they don't usually come across," she said.
The children are provided with nontoxic paints to decorate the zucchinis, which are grown by a local farmer, Baughman said. The vegetables are then rolled down a small ramp and the one that travels the furthest across the pavement wins a $5 chamber gift card and other prize for the child, she said.
Saturday's winner was Brayden Wellensiek, 8, of Chesterton, whose zucchini rolled 106 inches.
The competition is among the many events and vendors at the Saturday market, which runs from May through the end of October, Baughman said. There will be no Oz Fest this year, she said, so the market will take place on the third weekend in September.