It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s a … flying pumpkin?

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Joseph Beatty, Contributing Writer

 

Spectators get front-row seats to watch competitors launch pumpkins into the air. -Photo courtesy of Duke of Flatbush
Spectators get front-row seats to watch competitors launch pumpkins into the air.
-Photo courtesy of Duke of Flatbush

With fall and Thanksgiving just around the corner, many people are talking about all the great things that one can do with pumpkins, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin bread and pumpkin carving. But what about a sport that uses pumpkins? Well, for all of the sport and pumpkin aficionados there is pumpkin chunking (or Punkin Chunkin, as it is officially known).

In this sport, competitors attempt to launch gourds as high as they can into the air with the use of mechanical devices. These devices run the gamut from simple slingshots or catapults to much more complex pneumatic cannons. After building a working hurler, competitors must then pick out the best possible pumpkin to throw, taking into account the mass, shape, and size of the device; the stiffness, elevation, and pitch of the hurler; and of course the weather. In order for the launch (or chunk) to count, the pumpkin must remain whole after leaving the device. For this reason, competitors tend to pick one of three pumpkin varieties: Casper, Lumina, and La Estrella. These pumpkins have thicker rinds which are better able to handle the force of the launch.

Competitions exist throughout the United States, wherever pumpkins are harvested. Pumpkins have been chunked over a mile high at times (the current record is 5,545.43 feet), but they tend to average closer to 4,000 feet in elevation. The winning height from the most recent competition was 3,887.92 feet high. World Championship Punkin Chunkin, the oldest and largest annual competition, is held in Delaware the first week of November. If you find yourself in Europe during the fall, have no fear: A European Championship is held in Bikschote, Belgium every year as well. If you are interested in seeing pumpkins fly this fall but are worried that a Lit Trad paper is going to stop you from going all the way to Delaware, you can drive a few hours to Fredericksburg, TX to watch the Becker Vineyards competition.

 

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