What do you get when you blend redneck ingenuity with rocket science? Quite possibly the most amazing weekend of the year: Punkin Chunkin (November 1-3).
The national notoriety of Punkin Chunkin has soared to new heights since the Science Channel began broadcasting the event in 2009, but tens of thousands have amassed in Delaware corn fields on the first weekend in November to see enormous air cannons and catapults hurl pumpkins at this annual competition for nearly 2 decades before television cameras ever showed up.
Although it’s now a nationally renowned and acclaimed event, the phenomenon that is Punkin Chunkin comes from humble beginnings. In 1986, a group of friends from Sussex County, invoked by a physics demonstration they’d heard about on the campus of, then, Salisbury State University, set out to settle an argument over who could throw a pumpkin a greater distance. In an attempt to claim bragging rights, members of the group constructed homemade catapults designed specifically to launch pumpkins across a field. That year, in a small clearing in a woods outside of Georgetown, Trey Melson tossed a pumpkin 126’, taking home top honors and, inadvertently, setting the wheels in motion for the creation of a timeless tradition.
Much has changed since the first throws by Trey Melson and friends, but the essence of “The Chunk” remains exactly the same. Each year, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association organizes and oversees the event in Bridgeville, Delaware, as hundreds of skilled teammates compete, to throw the furthest pumpkin. Categories now include catapult, centrifuge, trebuchet, human powered, and air cannon, with sub-categories for women, youth and other divisions. The gargantuan growth of these machines resulting from decades of developments in science, technology, and strategy have yielded epic chunks that dwarf those of the event’s original pioneers. The current world records for the main categories stand as followed: human powered centrifugal- 229.59’; trebuchet- 2326.60’; catapult- 2862.28’; centrifugal- 2737.69’: and air cannon- 4694.68 ’.
Pumpkins rocketing through the sky at mind-numbing distances might be the main attraction, but what began in 1986 as a contest amongst friends has grown into a full scale festival with all the attractions. Fair food, rides and amusements, and fireworks displays that trump many July 4th celebrations on Delmarva offer plenty to do between launches, but the entertainment doesn’t end there. Punkin Chunkin has hosted national recording acts, such as Charlie Daniels, the Marshall Tucker Band, Jo Dee Messina, and Randy Owen, and features a well stacked music line-up each year. Other events have included chili cook-offs, pumpkin cooking competitions, beauty pageants, and a home beer brewing competition that spurned the start of Ocean City’s first brewing company, the Fin City Brewing Company, in 2008.
If all this isn’t enough to make you want to hang out in a corn field in Delaware, how about a camping scene turned tailgate party that rivals any professional sports game or major music festival. Campers begin pitching tents and parking RVs as early as Thursday, and by the time Saturday rolls around, the main day for spectators, the recently harvested field becomes a close-knit community of campers sharing food, drinks, and stories with their new found friends.
The concept of ‘punkin chunkin’ is so captivating that competitions exist all over the country, and even in Bikschote, Belgium; but Delaware’s world championship remains the oldest, longest running, and most prestigious of all. The World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association presents an amazing annual event each year, providing good times for all participants and spectators, but it also provides equal good to the local community. The 2012 edition of Punkin Chunkin drew more than 20,000 people to lower Delaware and grossed over $100,000 in ticket sales and associated revenues; of which approximately $70,000 was distributed to scholarship funds and local community organizations.
Whether you come for the flying pumpkins, the carnival amusements, live entertainment, the festival style atmosphere, or because you saw it on TV, Punkin Chunkin is an awe-inspiring extravaganza you absolutely must experience for yourself.
For complete event details and information, see www.punkinchunkin.com