[Photos by KEVIN LUDWIG]
BY BERNARD DOWNEY Admiring the autumnal foliage heading south on I-95, the white noise rush of traffic whooshing in my ears, along with the occasional Guns N Roses song on the radio, I press the pedal to the metal of my ’84 Corolla and race towards the annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin in Sussex County, Delaware. I didn’t really know what to expect.
For the last 22 years, on the first weekend after Halloween, beery revelers have gathered in this picturesque community to catapult pumpkins with homemade cannons. Do not let the term ‘homemade’ dissuade you — these contraptions involve a keen working knowledge of mechanics and physics. People travel from all over the world to participate in this spectacle (this year a film crew from The Discovery Channel was on hand). The event attracts a motley cast of characters, so motley in fact that the gorgeous Mrs. Tate, the high school biology teacher we all had crushes on in high school, was playing drinking games on a fold out table with my comrades when I pulled into the camp grounds. Now was my chance!
As Mrs. Tate escaped from me into the sea of Winnebagos, portable potties, and funnel cake, the sun faded and the party lasted until the wee morning hours. Not sure how this plays with the locals. Imagine waking up in the morning, sitting down with a cup of coffee and the local paper, only to see a school bus with a gigantic cannon sticking out fifty feet in the air passing by your kitchen window. I, for one, would be stoked.
The first chunkers sounded the alarm at 10 a.m., as pumpkins soared thousands of feet through the air as chase ATV’s tracked their distance. According to the Cape Gazette, this year’s event drew more than 72 teams and 20,000 spectators, grossing more than $100,000 in ticket sales and associated revenues — $70,000 of that will be distributed in scholarships to a variety of community organizations. Everyone was there to have fun, and if a trophy came out of it, all the better. What fuels this community’s passion for pumpkin launching is curious and bizarre, but altogether, pretty damn cool.