The Chunk: One Of Life’s Finer Flings

by Dave on November 7, 2010

by Michael Short

This is the 25th year for the event which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity, attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and raised throwing pumpkins to an art form. It’s a rollicking, good-natured, fun event that really has to be experienced to be understood.

The event takes place at the Wheatley Farm in Bridgeville from Friday through Sunday, Nov. 5 to 7. Cost is $9 for adults. Parking costs $2.

The event has grown from just a few friends trying to win friendly wagers to a world-class event. It has produced movies, songs and at least one book about the somewhat unique sport. Chunkers have traveled to New York City and tossed pumpkins down the streets for the David Letterman Show.

Long-time Punkin Chunkin Association President Frank Shade has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to talk about the Chunk.

Everyone from engineering professionals to scout troops show up with an unbelievable variety of crossbows, trebuchets, torsion machines, human powered machines and air cannons.

The air cannons tend to be the star of the show and some have thrown a pumpkin more than 4,000 feet. The current world record holder, the Young Glory III, has hurled a pumpkin 4,483.51 feet.

But some of the most colorful are crowd favorites like the pirate ship mockup or the takeoff on the children’s game mouse trap called The Pumpkin Trap.

Bearing names like the “Big Ten-Inch”, “Gourds in Space”, “Hokie Hurlers”, “Chucky” and “Bad to the Bone,” the machines look like the nightmare on pumpkin street. This year’s event will be filmed by the Discovery Channel, which plans to air two programs on the “Chunk.”

A website for one machine, called Chunk’n-ology has this to say. “World championship punkin chunkin is a non-profit organization that donates thousands of dollars to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital as well as thousands of dollars for college scholarships. We are not just a bunch of rednecks wasting pumpkins for the sake of backyard fun. . . Well, some of us are rednecks.”

County singer J.C. Anderson will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. In addition to the music and chunking, there is a beauty pageant, chili and pumpkin cookoffs, vendors, food and children’s rides. Gates open to the public at 7:30 a.m. on all three days.

Friday and Saturday’s events include 7 p.m. fireworks.

There’s even a Punkin Chunkin Anthem performed every year. It goes like this:

It was the end of October, the beginning of November. The air was cold and clear and I said boys, listen here. I think I can make a punkin fly. John said cannot. I said, can to. So, we put that punkin in a bucket, swung around, away it flew. John said, no fair. We said, Hell, it’s in the air. So the challenge was made and the gauntlet was laid. To build a machine to power a punkin through the air. John said, springs are the way to go. Bill said, I don’t believe so. It’s Punkin Chunkin time again. Come on, all you neighbors and friends. I’ll show you how to make a punkin fly . . .rain, snow or blow. Them punkins are gonna go.

A brief history of the event reprinted from the Cape Gazette and appearing on the Punkin Chunkin website quotes Lewes Blacksmith John Ellsworth as saying “It all started back in 1986. We were playing around one day and somebody started talking about throwing pumpkins. There had been an article in a newspaper or on television about people throwing pumpkins at Salisbury State (University). A physics class or something. One of us said they could throw further than somebody else and I threw my hat on the ground.”

“Anyway,” he contined. “Trey (Melson) and Bill (Thompson) both stomped on my hat and that kind of threw the gauntlet down.”

But there’s also a bit of a heavy heart for many chunkers this year because of the death of well-known and well-liked former champion Larry McLaughlin. McLaughlin joins a list of other former chunkers like Trey Melson, who are gone, but definitely not forgotten.

Punkin Chunkin also raises thousands for charities like the Cancer Society, Autism and the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Last year’s event raised nearly $60,000 for a variety of charities.

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