When did pumpkin chucking start?
Happy birthday to a guy who apparently likes pumpkins. I thought for sure this would be a Doodle about some type of firearm or welding apparatus, but out of left field came a request for pumpkins!
I could have gone with where pumpkins originated (the oldest known domestic pumpkin seeds were found in Mexico and thought to have originated in Central America some 7,500 years ago), or why we carve pumpkin for Halloween (it started in the 19th century with turnips being carved with scary faces in Ireland to ward off the spirit of a guy named Jack who tricked the devil and so wasn't let into heaven or hell and was doomed to walk earth for eternity), or the world's largest pumpkin (weighing in at 1,190.49 kg [2,624.6 lb] grown in 2016 by Mathias Willemijns from Belgium), but instead I decided to go with pumpkin chucking, which come to find out is actually "Punkin Chunkin"!
The first Punkin Chunkin competition was held in 1986 near Milton, Delaware with a handful of spectators and three contestants, according to News Journal archives. It was the brainchild of Trey Melson and Bill Thompson after an argument about who could find a way to throw a pumpkin farther.
in 1991, about 5,000 turned out to see about 12 entrants with wooden catapults and motorized machines, The News Journal reported. A year later the event drew an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 people from as far away as Canada and Alaska to watch nine contestants.
In 1993, Punkin Chunkin won the Governor's Tourism Award as Delaware's outstanding special event. It expanded in 1993, adding human-powered and youth divisions plus a pumpkin recipe contest.
Punkin Chunkin is televised for the first time by the Discovery Channel in 2002. Five years later the event moved to Bridgeville due to increasing space needs.
The Science Channel began its annual coverage of Punkin Chunkin in 2009 and it quickly became a staple of their Thanksgiving programming.
In 2011 things took a turn... a volunteer is injured in an ATV accident at the 2011 edition of Punkin Chunkin, but that didn't stop the event from happening the following year with 20 entrants in the adult-crewed air cannon category, which drew the most contestants at the 2012 World Championship Punkin Chunkin near Bridgeville.
In 2013, the volunteer filed a personal injury lawsuit regarding the ATV accident in 2011. After the lawsuit is filed, the farmer who hosted the event said he wouldn't let the event return to his property. The lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.
Punkin Chunkin is canceled a little less than a month before it was scheduled to take place in October 2014 at its new location, the Dover International Speedway. Event organizers say the event will start in its new Dover location in 2015, but it was canceled again, partly due to difficulty finding an insurer. It's in this time that event organizers begin considering Maryland locations.
Punkin Chunkin returns after a two-year hiatus in November of 2016. The three-day event was held at Wheatley Farms in Bridgeville. Event organizers struggled to find a location willing to host the event and an insurer, and then in 2016. Suzanne Dakessian was critically injured when an air cannon blew apart while firing a pumpkin and a piece of it struck her in the head. The 39-year-old was working as a television producer for the Science Channel. A 56-year-old man also suffered non-life threatening injuries. The Science Channel cancelled its Punkin Chunkin special shortly after.
Suzanne Dakessian filed a civil lawsuit in 2017 against the organization, its leaders, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the farm where the event was held, leading Punkin Chunkin organizers to cancel the event in 2017 & 2018. A federal judge dismissed Suzanne Dakessian’s lawsuit with prejudice on January 25, 2019 and less than two weeks later, Punkin Chunkin organizers announce that they are looking to put on the event once again.
In April of 2019, officials in Ocean City, Maryland, vote in support of hosting the event, but no formal agreement was put in place. The preliminary proposal called for the event to take place at the Inlet parking lot where pumpkins would be launched into the ocean instead of farm fields. Punkin Chunkin officials indicated that there has been interest in areas outside of Delmarva, including Illinois and Colorado. "We are still here. We're still trying to keep it alive," said Frank Payton, president of the World Championship Punkin Association. "If we can keep it on Delmarva, I think we want to." That was not the case and the Punkin Chunkin organizers announced in May that the event is moving to Rantoul, Illinois. The event was held in November with several entrants as well as a mandatory liability waiver with assumption of risk for anyone having anything to do with the event.
2020's event is scheduled to happen (even if it's by non-traditional methods), with the following categories: Trebuchets, Catapults, Torsion, Air Cannons, Centrifugals, Human Powered, Theatrical, Youth Competition (11-17), Youth Competition (10 & Under)