Posts Tagged ‘Punkin Chunkin’

Pumpkins in the air

November 3, 2010

This weekend marks the 25th year people have gathered in local farm fields to win bragging rights for throwing a pumpkin the greatest distance. World Championship Punkin Chunkin is like no other event.

From the first winning throw of 126 feet, the event has grown into something nobody expected – a happening of people who dedicate their lives to launching white and orange orbs.

Sophisticated air cannons, hurling pumpkins nearly a mile, have replaced those early contraptions, and the field of play is now a 1,000-acre farm. The world record, held by Young Glory III, a local team, stands at 4,483 feet.

Thanks to national television exposure from the Discovery/Science Channel, Punkin Chunkin is no longer just a local event: It’s now on the national stage. The network plans three hours of coverage this year with “The Road to Punkin Chunkin” airing Wednesday, Nov. 24, followed by a 2-hour special Thanksgiving Day.

Frank Shade, director of media relations and president for eight years, said it’s hard to point to one reason for the event’s success. “It’s a natural progression of throwing things,” he said. “There is a human fascination to see things that are not supposed to move.”

He said 95 percent of those who attend the event are hooked for life.

The event had an inauspicious start with three teams. In 1986, John Ellsworth, Trey Melson, Bill Thompson, Chuck and Darryl Burton and Donald (Doc) Pepper met on a field near Milton in the first official chunk.

This year’s event, which takes place off Route 404 near Bridgeville, is Friday-Sunday, Nov. 5-7. Competition in a variety of divisions – from human power to trebuchet to air cannon – takes place each day with a team’s best throw, shot or chunk recorded. Some wow the crowds with spectacular shots, while others never get a shot off and still others make “pie” as the pumpkin explodes. Other than chunking, a full slate of activities help to attract as many as 80,000 spectators.  Shade said, based on advanced ticket sales and camping requests, this could be the year the attendance tops the 100,000 mark. “Everyone who attends has one thing in common – they love to see pumpkins fly,” he said.

He also said everyone keeps an eye on the air cannons to see if one can finally eclipse the mythical-mile mark.

The Miss Punkin Chunkin Pageant and pumpkin-cooking contest take place Saturday and the chili cook-off starts at 11 a.m. Sunday. Fireworks to celebrate the 25th anniversary will fill the skies at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Music has also become an important part of the event. This year 12 bands are scheduled to perform, including many local favorites like the Funsters, as well as country music star J.C. Anderson.

After three full days, awards will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Last year, the Punkin Chunkin Association awarded $25,000 in scholarships to area high school students. In addition, several local nonprofit organizations make money by assisting the army of volunteers needed to put on the event.

Go to  www,punkinchunkin.com for more information.

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

November 12, 2009
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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.