Pumpkin chucking, or for rhyming purposes punkin chunkin or pumpkin chunking, is the sport of hurling or 'chucking' a pumpkin solely by mechanical means for distance. The devices used include slingshots, catapults, centrifugals, trebuchets, and pneumatic (air) cannons.
Punkin chunkin competitions, formal and informal, exist throughout the United States in the autumn, particularly in early November as a means to dispose of surplus pumpkins from Halloween. World Championship Punkin Chunkin, held annually in November in Delaware by the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA), was the first and largest annual competition. The event ran annually from 1985 to 2013; a myriad of legal and logistical problems caused multiple events to be cancelled after that, and subsequent championships have been more sporadic. A European Championship has been held in Bikschote, Belgium each year since 2004.
The Guinness world record shot is held by a pneumatic cannon dubbed "Big 10 Inch", at 5,545.43 feet (1,690.25 m), on September 9, 2010 in Moab, Utah. The shot received certification from Guinness World Records in early February 2011. It has also competed many times at the WCPC event in Delaware. The WCPCA World Record, which includes only shots made at the annual World Championship event, is held by Team American Chunker, captained by Brian Labrie of New Hampshire, at 4,694.68 feet (1,430.94 m) on November 1, 2013, in Bridgeville, Delaware, the longest shot in event history. The difference in results between Delaware and Utah may be due to the higher, thinner, drier air found in Utah providing less resistance and drag, thus greater range.
The range achieved by devices greatly depends on their mass, shape, and size; the yield limits, stiffness, pitch, and elevation of the hurler; and the weather. The pumpkin is another important variable since sabots are often prohibited in competitions. Casper, Lumina, and La Estrella are the most common varieties used for competitions, since they tend to have thicker rinds than other varieties and can thus withstand greater forces during launch. One of the core rules for competition is that the pumpkin must remain whole after leaving the device until hitting the ground for the chunk to count. Pumpkins that burst after leaving the barrel or sling are referred to as "pie" (short for "pumpkin pie in the sky"); such launches are disqualified under WCPC rules.
Punkin Chunkin events, usually independently organized, are held throughout the United States, with active annual contests in Clayton, New York, Ellicottville, New York and Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County, Pennsylvania.
A variant of the competition, the pumpkin shoot, emphasizes accuracy over distance, as competitors aim to hit a specific target. A "Great Pumpkin Shoot" has been held in Olean, New York most years since 2010.
World Championship Punkin Chunkin
World Championship Punkin Chunkin (WCPC) was the name of an annual contest held the first full weekend after Halloween in Delaware from 1986 through 2013 and 2016. It is governed by the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA).
Teams competed in the following divisions: Air Cannon, Female Air Cannon, Centrifugal, Catapult, Torsion, Trebuchet, Human Powered, Centrifugal Human Powered, Youth Air Cannon, Youth Catapult, Youth Trebuchet, Youth Human Powered, Youth 10 & Under, and Theatrical. Each division competed strictly for distance except for the Theatrical division which relies on a fan vote. The teams get three shots, one taken on each of three consecutive days. Only a team's longest shot is scored for official results. Spotters riding on ATVs find the impact point, and then a professional surveyor calculates the distance based on GPS coordinates of the impact and the machine. The impact point is marked with color-coded spray paint.
The event also featured amusement rides, food vendors, fireworks, live concerts, a pumpkin cooking contest, a chili cook-off, the Miss Punkin Chunkin pageant, and other attractions.
The event originated in 1986, and early in its history convened in Lewes, Delaware. Due to increasing space requirements (distance of shots, number of teams, and number of spectators) new locations in Sussex County had to be found. In 2007, WCPC moved to Bridgeville (at ), near the intersection of Seashore Highway and Chaplains Chapel Road. About 75 teams competed, the event drew more than 20,000 people, and grossed more than $800,000 in ticket sales and associated revenues. More than 70% of that money would be donated to a variety of community organizations. Starting with the 2014 WCPCA event, festivities were to be held at Dover International Speedway in Dover, after the landowner who hosted the event evicted the event from his property due to a 2011 lawsuit (one that was eventually settled out of court). However, the 2014 event was canceled due to logistics problems (the speedway did not have long enough of a straightaway to cover the one-mile distance the competition requires), and the contest was expected to be permanently shuttered prior to the 2015 contest due to insurance companies refusing to cover the contest.
After considering a move to a location in Maryland, the organization announced plans to revive the World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest for 2016 at its previous site in Bridgeville, after the insurance concerns were addressed.
No World Championship was held in 2017 because of another injury-related lawsuit; before the decision to cancel, the organizers had suggested that the 2017 championship would have been the last one due to the lawsuit and the related withdrawal of its television partner. 2018 came and went with the organization having gone silent, and no championship was held that year.
In May 2019, the World Championship announced its intent to relocate to Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois and return for 2019. Organizers cited better state protections against liability in Illinois compared to Delaware, Illinois' status as the country's most prolific pumpkin growing state, the fact that the former air force base is a brownfield that does not need to be cleared of crops (allowing the event to be held a few weeks earlier in the season), and lower costs for police and fire protection.
The 2019 World Championship was substantially downsized (in terms of number of competitors) due to the relocation, as many of the Delaware regulars were unwilling to trek across several states to partake. This allowed for a more intimate experience (spectators could visit the contestants in the pits before the competition began), but also led the organizers to believe the event would run at a financial loss for them.
For 2020, the organizers sought to return to the eastern United States but were unable to do so because of coronavirus restrictions; the event was to be held in 2020 in an altered format, but organizers again claimed they could not find a host "in (a state) with favorable liability laws;" they also declined to hold the event in 2021, citing "many obstacles in our path in recent years - some well known and others, not so much(.)" The organizers stated that though they loved Delaware, they were convinced that "certain organizations within our state (...) will work to see that (the changes necessary to return the event to Delaware) never happen" and that it was outright illegal to host the event in Maryland due to firearms laws in that state, limiting options for returning the contest to Delmarva as they had hoped. The organizers set a hopeful return date of 2022, potentially in North Carolina which has the liability protections the organizers seek; they are also hoping to discuss the matter with officials in Virginia. If the event organizers cannot hold the event in 2022, they stated that the event, as it originally had been conceived, would be effectively over and "that we may need to rebuild the World Championship Punkin Chunkin from the ground up."
The Science Channel carried the World Championship from 2009 to 2016. WCPCA and the Science Channel agreed to a new 3-year contract that ran through the 2016 WCPC. In 2009 and 2010 the "Punkin Chunkin" special aired on tape delay on Thanksgiving Day. Each year of coverage thus far has featured an hour long special titled "Road to the Chunk" that preceded coverage of the WCPC event. The previous year's contest is shown around Halloween and sporadically throughout the year. Road to Punkin Chunkin 2011 featured three 30-minute episodes airing weekly leading up to Thanksgiving.
The first televised Punkin Chunkin special was aired by the Discovery Channel in 2002, hosted by Bryan Callen. In 2008, after a six-year hiatus, Punkin Chunkin returned to cable television on the Science channel as a 1-hour program, hosted by Brad Sherwood. 2009 brought a two-episode broadcast covering the teams heading to the event, and then the event itself, each hosted by Zach Selwyn and Mike Senese. 2010 was hosted by Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage of the Discovery Channel program MythBusters. From 2011 to 2013, the special was hosted by MythBusters "Build Team" members Tory Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara. Clip shows compiling footage of previous Punkin Chunkin events aired in 2014 and 2015.
During taping of the 2016 festivities, one of the event's air cannons malfunctioned and chunks of flying metal struck a member of the TV production staff in the head, seriously injuring her; after the injury, Science Channel opted to discontinue filming and not air Punkin Chunkin that year. The staffer is believed to have recovered from her injuries. The producer filed a lawsuit against the WCPCA, its officers and the landowner in 2017, prompting them to cancel the World Championship for 2017. The lawsuit was dismissed in early 2019.
The 2019 event was not televised on a traditional broadcast, cable or satellite outlet. The organizers streamed most of the festivities on Facebook Live.
|Year||Team name||Distance (feet)|
|2016||American Chunker Inc.||4,305.82|
|2015||American Chunker Inc.||4,536.57|
|2013||American Chunker Inc||4,694.68|
|2012||Young Glory III||3,887.92|
|2011||Second Amendment Too||4,329.37|
|2009||Big 10 Inch||4,162.65|
|2008||Young Glory III||4,483.51|
|2007||Big 10 Inch||4,211.27|
|1999||Big 10 Inch||3,695|
|1998||Q36 Pumpkin Modulator||4,026|
|1996||Q36 Pumpkin Modulator||2,710|
|1988||Melson - Thompson||600|
|1987||Melson - Thompson||300|
|1986||Melson - Thompson||178|
|Machine class||Team name||Distance (feet)||Year|
|Adult Air||American Chunker Inc||4,694.68||2013|
|Adult Female Air||Hormone Blaster||4,382.96||2013|
|Adult Centrifugal||Bad To The Bone||3,245.58||2013|
|Adult Catapult||Chunk Norris||4,091||2019|
|Adult Trebuchet||Colossal Thunder||3,377||2019|
|Adult Human Powered||Shooda Noed Beter||2,343.42||2016|
|Adult Centrifugal Human Powered||Smokin Lamas||1,776.37||2013|
|Youth Air||Snot Rocket||4,206.32||2013|
|Youth Catapult||Chunk 58||1731.43||2018|
|Youth Trebuchet||Colossal Thunder||2,402.63||2013|
|Youth Human Powered||Stomach Virus||1,230.12||2013|
|Youth 10 & Under||Little Blaster||1,939.81||2002|
|Youth 10 & Under Catapult||Jersey Devil||1,272.64||2013|
|Youth 10 & Under Trebuchet||Pumpkin Pirates||418.99||2013|
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