They came from as far away as Pennsylvania - in cars, pickup trucks, some even walked . . . and they were all loaded with zucchinis. Millions of zucchinis.
From the Zucchini Parade to the crowning of Ms. Zucchini and the Zuke of Earl , the tiny New Hampshire town of Harrisville (pop. 800) recently hosted the first International Zucchini Festival. Women strolled the festival grounds in zucchini necklaces as they cradled carefully bundled zucchini babies. Small children carved out zucchini boats to enter in the zucchini regatta. Grown men tiptoed across the Nubanusit River on a narrow log - to test their zuccuilibrium.
The festival was masterminded by Harrisville resident Chick Colony to raise money for the private Harrisville School, and raise money it did - some $4,000 from the estimated 2,200 people who attended. But the festival also served the grander purpose of delivering the populace from its annual late-summer zucchini glut. People, it is rumored, will do just about anything to get rid of their surplus of the long green vegetable.
Disaster nearly struck, however, when unseasonably cold June weather hit the region for the first time in many years and the surplus didn't materialize. However, the quick-thinking Zucchini Central Committee (ZCC) averted the crisis by charging as admission one bag of zukes (or $1 for the zukeless).
Zukes were indeed in plentiful supply for such culinary delights as cold zucchini soup, zucchini tempura, and for dessert, zucchini chocolate-chip cake, all of which could be purchased with green tokens called ''zukes'' (one ''zuke'' equaled 25 cents, four zukes to the ''gadzuke'' - $1).
''No Cukes'' was the rallying cry of zuke aficionados, who kept a close lookout for imposters. Dr. Zuke, stethoscope and doctor's bag in hand, patrolled the town square searching for ''cukes in zukes' clothing.'' Karen Jackson of Jaffrey, N.H., was nabbed green-handed, juggling three small cucumbers. ''(My son) Ethan disguised them with Lone-Ranger masks, but I was caught,'' she lamented, pointing to the bright orange stickers labeling them as fakes.
Zucchini enthusiasts vied for green ribbons in the greased-zucchini toss, the bicycle jump over zucchinis, the zucchini relay race (runners passed the zucchini), the zucchini derby, and the Great Grateoff, where the winning peel taken from one rather hefty zuke measured in at five feet.
And you can't have a Zucchini Festival without competition for the fattest; longest; heaviest (about 15 pounds); squarest (the only entry was disqualified - too rectangular); farthest-traveled (the second-place zucchini came from Nairobi , first place had been mailed from Dublin, N.H., to South Australia and back); most grotesque zuke not grown within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant; largest zucchini that wasn't there yesterday (the winner was subjected to ''carbon dating and spectrographic analysis to ensure compliance with contest specifications''); best ''still life with zucchini'' photograph; and, of course, best of breed, which an anonymous saboteur replaced with a cucumber, informed sources report.
For the authors in the crowd, awards were presented for the best zucchini poem, essay, song (one contestant sang ''the greens''), and cheer. ''A fool and his zucchini are soon parted'' was the winner in the ''most obscure reference to zucchini'' category.
Special green ribbons went to a photo album entitled, ''Our Zucchini Wedding, '' and to the first solar-powered zucchini in history. Other zucchini highlights: the itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny zucchini bikini competition; the zucchini look-alike contest; and a performance by Zambini the Dancing Zucchini, who was auctioned off amid fierce bidding. The final bid: 60 gadzukes. Asked if the Zucchini Festival would become an annual event, Nancy Hayden of the ZCC said, ''I should hope so - it's a lot easier than selling brownies.'' The winning zucchini poem More than turkey tetrazini I hate to eat a boiled zucchini. Give it to me fried or breaded, Roasted, broiled, or feather-bedded, On a pile of lettuce shredded, Or on biscuits, you may spread it. Make it regular or unleaded, With cheese and onions nicely wedded. Keep your cooking level-headed And avoid the ever-dreaded Lest you see zucchini wasted Forlornly heaped and never tasted Save your toil, Never boil.