Punkin Chunkin seeking return to Sussex

Association wants event to stay in county; search is on for 600 acres to host championship
February 8, 2019

After two years on hold, officials say Punkin Chunkin is back.

An announcement on the Punkin Chunkin Facebook page Feb. 8 said that the championship will return, but the organization is searching for a place to hold it.

“It's official. We are back, although we never left or dissolved despite rumors,” the Facebook post reads. “The immediate obstacle in determining if we can hold a 2019 championship is land.”

The group is searching for at least 600 acres to accommodate parking, camping, vending and participants.

“We are weighing all options to determine the future of Punkin Chunkin,” said Frank Payton, association president. “We need to assess support for the event. It’s up to the community and individuals who want to support us.”

There is no guarantee the event will stay in Sussex County or even Delaware, but Payton said every effort will be made to keep the event local.

“If we can't stay a Delaware tradition, we hope to become an Eastern Shore tradition benefiting from laws in Maryland and Virginia for nonprofits. If all else fails, it is our hope to continue to be an American tradition,” the post states.

A lawsuit filed against the organization, its officials and the state of Delaware was dismissed Jan. 25 in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit was filed by Suzanne Dakessian, a television producer, critically injured in 2016 when a metal door from an air cannon struck her in the head.

Dakessian was left with irreversible brain damage, fractures of her skull and face, blindness in her right eye and serious injury that has permanently damaged her left arm. She sought compensatory and punitive damages for her pain and suffering and more than $75,000 in medical bills she had accumulated at the time.

The case and cross claims were dismissed with prejudice, meaning Dakessian is barred from bringing action on the same claim – it is a final judgment.

Officials said they cannot address any inquiries related to the termination of the litigation except the case was resolved with no admission or finding of liability on the association's part.

Due to insurance and logistics issues, the event – started in 1986 in Lewes – was cancelled in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. It returned to the Wheatley Farm near Bridgeville in 2016.

The event attained national attention when Science Channel became a sponsor, filmed the event and broadcast it as a Thanksgiving special. The sponsorship was withdrawn following the 2016 event, and the show was not broadcast that year due to the accident involving the producer.

Payton said the association’s board is getting active again. “As we grow as an organization, we continue to learn more and more,” Payton said.

Payton said because air cannons are firing pumpkins nearly one mile, about 600 acres of land is needed to accommodate the event. “We have unique requirements, but we can be creative,” he said.

For more information, contact the association at



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