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26th annual Punkin Chunkin takes place Nov. 4-6

Thousands ready to see gourds fill the Sussex sky
November 1, 2011

Story Location:
Bridgeville  Delaware  19933
United States

With the promise of good weather this weekend, there is no doubt pumpkins will be flying and thousands will be cheering during the 26th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin.

More than 110 teams will pull up to the mile-long firing line at the Wheatley Farm near Bridgeville for three rounds of shots Nov. 4, 5 and 6. Teams in the air-cannon division, one of 13 in the event, are closing in on the elusive one-mile chunk.

The competition starts at 8 a.m. each of the three days of the event. The team’s best shot of the three is counted toward finishing spots.

The World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association raises money for organizations and scholarship programs that benefit youth and the community by bringing in crowds and local and national media coverage. Many organizations benefit from the event, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Autism Delaware and Childhelp.

In what started out as a few friends in Lewes looking for a way to get rid of leftover pumpkins has grown into an international event. Founders Donald Pepper, John Ellsworth, Trey Melson and Bill Thompson never dreamed the event would literally take off like it has.

The winning chunk back in 1986 was 126 feet; the current world record – held by Milton’s Jake Burton and Young Glory III – is 4,483 feet.

“Punkin Chunkin has grown to become an international event with a huge following. The unusual machines with the sole purpose of throwing pumpkins as far as possible provide fun and entertainment for all ages,” said Frank Shade, past president and director of media and promotions.

While many of the winners in the 13 chunking divisions come from locales all over the country, many local chunkers are still holding their own. Last year, nine of the top 15 finishers in the air-cannon division were from Sussex County. In addition last year, a female chunker showed the way. Winning the female and overall titles was Dawn Thompson of Georgetown – wife of one of the founders – with Hormone Blaster.

Consistent local winners over the years have been Bad to the Bone in the adult centrifugal division and Wolfman Joe Thomas and Old Glory, although he “pied” all three shots in competition last year.

The Discovery Channel and Science Channel film the event and it now has a large following during the Thanksgiving Day lineup. The show is scheduled to be broadcast at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 24.

The American Bus Association named Punkin Chunkin one of North America’s top 100 festivals for 2012, as the event brings more than 100,000 visitors to Sussex County, Shade said.

In addition to the flying pumpkin spectacles, the event includes food booths, beauty pageants, craft booths, rides for children, a cooking contest and live entertainment. Go to punkinchunkin.com for a complete schedule.

Country music star J.C. Anderson will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, and at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5. Fireworks follow the Mari Hill Band show at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5.

Adult tickets cost $10 per day and include parking. Children under 10 are admitted free. Go to punkinchunkin.com for event schedule and details. For more information call Shade at 645-1846 or email him at 1punkinchunker@gmail.com. The chunking site is located off Route 404 near Bridgeville, but there is no access from Route 404. From the Cape Region, go west on Route 404, turn south on Route 13 and then right onto Route 40 (Redden Road) and follow signs to the parking area.

The Punkin Chunkin Association will be awarding $40,000 in scholarships to students this year. "We strongly support education," Shade said. "Last year we gave out $30,000 in scholarships to students pursuing advanced degrees. We awarded scholarships with funds from the 2010 event."

For application information visit school guidance counselors or the Punkin Chunkin website at punkinchunkin.com, call 302-645-1846, or send mail to: Punkin Chunkin Association, PO Box 217, Nassau, DE 19969.