Pumpkins

When you think of pumpkin you may think of pie, but the people in Delaware think of punkin chunkin.

Imagine pumpkins launched from giant slingshots, catapults, trebuchet, centrifugals and air cannons.

The World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for scholarships and other organizations that benefit youth programs and the local community.

This pumpkin launching event fuels innovative engineering ideas and inspires creativity, ingenuity and teamwork. The competition is held in Bridgeville Delaware in November.

It all started in 1986 in a blacksmith shop owned by John Ellsworth.

John, Trey Melson, Bill Thompson and Donald “Doc” Pepper began experimenting with different methods of Punkin chunkin and the competition was born.

The Machines

Punkin chunkers have a few options when it comes to hurling the squash across the sky.

The air cannons are machines that use compressed air in a tank.

When the constraint holding the air in the tank is removed the air expands back to its normal volume.

The released air acts like a spring and forces the object, in this case pumpkin, through the tube and propels it through the air.

Trebuchets are powered by gravity using a counterweight to swing the object attached to a sling.

Catapults are similar but are powered by springs or rubber bands.

Centrifugals build up force in a circular pattern and release the pumpkin at the optimal trajectory.

Adult and youth teams compete in divisions and are scored for distance.

Each team gets three shots.

One of the most important rules of punkin chunkin is that the pumpkin must remain whole until it hits the ground.

A pumpkin busting in air is called a “pie” and the shot is disqualified.

The distance the team is able to hurl their pumpkins depends on the mass, shape, size and thickness of the pumpkin rind.

Past Winning Distances

The first official punkin chunkin in 1986 was won by a distance of 178 feet and every year since then the winning distance has increased.

In 2013 the team American Chunker Inc. won with a whopping distance of 4,694.68 feet.

What’s next for the sport?

The organization hopes to add the youth 10 and under category in the future.

If sending gourds flying through the air is not for you consider entering the punkin chunkin cooking completion or the chili cook-off.

Both feature one main ingredient, you guessed it, pumpkin!

Punkin chunkin has been a big part of the fall festivities in Delaware for over 20 years.

If you want to learn more about this amazing competition read Pie in the Sky: The Authorized History of Punkin Chunkin’ by Bob Kotowski.


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