At Punkin Chunkin it’s cool to be a red neck

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Only in Sussex County.

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Let's Bounce.

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Another shot by Old Glory.

Punkin Chunkin is one of those truly unique events that you have to attend in person at least once in your lifetime. There are sights to be seen that can be witnessed nowhere else. It’s one of the times when being a red neck is cool.

Although I enjoy the event, I wish I had attended some of the chunks when the event first started 24 years ago. Back in the early days, the chunk was really local with most the participants and spectators coming from Sussex County.

That is not the case today.

Today, thanks to national – and even international – TV exposure the event has transformed into an international spectacle attracting foreign teams and press, as well as teams from states throughout the U.S. Teams – with accents nothing like the rednecks who profess to organize the event – tend to dominate the top spots in every category.

Sponsors are needed, just like in NASCAR, to offset the high prices of some of the machines. The firing line has grown to almost a mile long. That’s a big change from the first few events with a couple of guys tossing pumpkins from homemade machines.

No one from those early days could have imagined the high-tech machines that now shoot gourds almost a mile. The first winners, Bill Thompson and Trey Melson, tossed their pumpkin 178 feet – on a bet with Lewes blacksmith John Ellsworth.

Just 25 spectators showed up to find out what was going on at the first chunk. Now, tens of thousands of spectators come from all over to catch a glimpse of the men and women and their fancy machines.
Gaining a spot on the Discovery Channel has helped to catapult the event even more into the rare air of extra-special events.

It’s outgrown three sites, with a burgeoning budget large enough to finance a small army.

The Punkin Chunkin committee has done a good job staying focused on its roots. The founders are considered celebrities in the world of tossing pumpkins; history is still treasured.

Even so, the event has become so large that some of the luster that attracted people in the early days has worn off.

If you want to recapture some of that luster from the early chunking days, watch those competing in the human-powered, catapult and torsion divisions.

Yeah, Punkin Chunkin is a time for beer drinking and cigar smoking and a time for people to act a little weird. It’s also a time for some of the nicest people in any sport to meet and play with pumpkins in a very large field to help raise money for charity.

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