Pumpkin chunkin: Where physics and your inner child collide


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The World Championship Pumpkin Chunkin event in Sussex County, Del., brought in 20,000 people last year!

Whether you’re thinking of cool and creative new ways to launch a pumpkin or sitting back watching a pumpkin hurdling thousands of feet over head, you have to admit there’s something about pumpkin chunkin that brings out the child in all of us.

For “chunkers” — whether they’re amateur or professional engineers — it sparks a creativity and ingenuity that no other sport can match. It requires a team of people to build and operate the machinery, and you’re competing for distance. Pumpkins must weigh between 8 and 10 pounds and be in their natural state. (That means no Jack-’o-lanterns — bummer.) The pumpkin must remain whole after leaving the machine for it to count. If it splatters in the air, it’s called “pumpkin pie in the sky.”

There are a variety of launchers recognized at competitions: centrifugal, catapult, air cannon, trebuchet or torsion. All can send a pumpkin sailing at more than 600 miles per hour. Learn the inner workings of each.

According to Guinness World Records, the farthest distance to fire a pumpkin is 5,545.43 feet. Ralph Eschborn II, Alex Eschborn, Eric Eschborn, Pete Hill, Stefan Hill, John Piel, Verne Weidman, Don Brill and Harry Harding used their air cannon, called “Big 10 Inch,” in Moab, Utah, on Sept., 9, 2010.

The World Championship Pumpkin Chunkin is the oldest and largest chunkin competition. Every year, it takes place the weekend after Halloween in Sussex County, Del. Last year’s event drew more than 20,000 people and featured 72 teams. That’s a lot of pumpkin smashing!

This year’s event is from Nov. 1 to 3 and will be aired on the Discovery Channel on Thanksgiving night at 8 p.m.

Want to build a pumpkin chunkin machine? Learn the physics behind it.