Punkin Chunkin!

TFK Kid Reporter Gabe Roy goes behind the scenes at the 2010 pumpkin-throwing world championship

Nov 22, 2010 | By TFK Kid Reporter Gabe Roy

"Fire in the hole!" With this cry, pumpkins fly. The 25th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest was held November 5 through 8 in a wide-open farm field in Bridgeville, Delaware.

The contest began in 1986. Since then the event has evolved from a simple pumpkin-throwing contest into a high-tech affair where teams shoot pumpkins from sophisticated machines. At first, the distances were small. But the world record, set in 2008 by the Young Glory III air cannon, is 4,483.51 feet. That's almost a mile! This year's teams tried their best to send their pumpkin flying even farther. The contest drew 110 teams and 100,000 spectators, event organizers say.

There are a few rules. No explosives are allowed, the pumpkin must weigh between eight and ten pounds, and no part of a pumpkin-hurling machine can cross the starting line. Finally, the pumpkin must remain intact before it hits the ground. Sometimes the pressure on an air cannon is too high, and the pumpkin turns to what chunkers, or pumpkin throwers, call "pumpkin pie." That means that the pumpkin bursts into bits in mid-air. That's bad news for the team that fired it.

How Do They Do It?

Last year the Big 10 Inch air cannon team came in first, sending their pumpkin flying a whopping 4,162 feet. "The air cannons dominate for distance," team captain Ralph Eschborn told TFK.

Julia Reed, 9, is one of the youngest contestants and a third-generation chunker. She is part of the team behind Little Liberty, a catapult. Like some of the other teams, hers uses white pumpkins instead of the more familiar orange variety. The white ones are much thicker, and the thicker the crust, the greater the chance of avoiding "pumpkin pie" in the sky.

To find out this year's winning teams, tune in to Punkin Chunkin 2010, which will be simulcast on The Discovery Channel, and the Science Channel, on Thanksgiving Day. (Check your local listings for times.)

"Viewers can expect to see an incredible variety of different ways you can throw a pumpkin. We've got air-cannons, we've got things loaded with springs, and ropes, and pulleys, and counter weights. We have everything you can possibly imagine to throw a pumpkin with," says Jamie Hyneman, who will host the program with Adam Savage. The pair co-host Mythbusters, which is also on the Discovery Channel.

The Science Channel's Debbie Myers told TFK that Punkin Chunkin is the channel's most-watched special. "People love the creativity of science and ingenuity," she says. "These are passionate, smart people thinking of clever ways to chuck a pumpkin. How cool is that?"