Pumpkins could be flying near the Monster Mile in Dover this fall.
If approved by its membership, the World Championship Punkin Association plans to move its annual event out of Sussex County for the first time in its 27-year history to Dover International Speedway in Kent County.
"We feel confident that we have vetted all possible locations in Delaware and our surrounding region," said John Huber, association president. "Dover International Speedway provides a home for Punkin Chunkin that allows the event to live on and prosper. Without the speedway, the 2014 event would likely have been cancelled."
Huber said the property provides chunkers with opportunities for longer world-record chunks than ever before, well over a mile is possible on the property across from the race track.
The association is seeking approval of its membership for its fall 2014 event location. The recommendation was presented to board members June 12. The move would be the fifth for Punkin Chunkin, which started with a humble event in a Lewes field in 1986. It is now an international event with more than 100 teams taking part each year.
Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson said county officials worked to keep Punkin Chunkin in the county. "Obviously, we're disappointed in the leadership's decision to relocate an event that was born in Sussex County,” he said. “This will always be the birthplace and home of Punkin' Chunkin', no matter where it is held from this point forward.”
Dover International Speedway plays host to multiple large events throughout the year, including two NASCAR weekends and Firefly Music Festival.
The relocation marks the end of a nearly year-long property search following notice by the previous host, Wheatley Farms Inc., that the annual event had grown beyond what the farming operation could support. Huber said the association remains grateful for the seven years that the event was held on the Wheatley property.
“While the county appreciates the growing logistical and legal hurdles that faced the Punkin' Chunkin' organization over the years, due in part to its tremendous success, we believe there still are suitable locations within Sussex and would welcome the event back whenever they are ready,” Lawson said.
Several in-state and out-of-state options were explored, Huber said, before the selection was narrowed down to Dover.
“The association feels that the combination of the WCPCA's unique, internationally-acclaimed event and the speedway's expertise and grounds will create a great environment for competitors, a great show for spectators, and raise more money for scholarships and charitable giving than previous locations were able to provide,” Huber said.
Both parties are working through event logistics, and as further information develops, the association will issue additional statements, Huber said.
The event is scheduled for Oct. 24 to 26.