Splash! Ocean City wants Punkin Chunkin

May 1 deadline passes to keep popular event in Sussex County or Delaware
May 1, 2019

Chunking pumpkins into the Atlantic Ocean?

As improbable as it may seem, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association has been approached by an Ocean City, Md. promoter to hold the event at the beach.

“It's great that someone has stepped up to keep the event on Delmarva,” said Frank Payton, association president. “There are several questions we will need answered to hold the event at that venue.”

In addition, the organization has been approached by event promoters in Illinois, Colorado and New Jersey, Payton said.

The association set a May 1 deadline to keep the event in Delaware or in Sussex County, where it started in Lewes in 1986. “We are pretty sure it will not take place in Delaware unless someone meeting all the criteria steps forward soon. There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle to have the event in Delaware,” Payton said.

He said in order to keep the event local, serious planning would need to start by the end of May. However, in the other proposed locations, promoters are used to staging large events and the deadline to start planning could be extended, he said.

For the event at the Ocean City site, several key questions would need to be answered, Payton said, including the cost of liability insurance, how to measure flight distances with pumpkins landing in water and potential environmental issues.

Payton said there may be options, but he has researched methods to measure pumpkins landing in water and so far has not found technology that works. “It can't be a true world championship event without measurements,” he said.

Payton said the association board would meet later this month to make a decision as a deadline to start planning approaches.

“There will be some sort of World Championship Punkin Chunkin this year,” Payton said.

Chunk cancelled for four years

Although it has moved to different farm fields, World Championship Punkin Chunkin has never been held in any place other than Sussex County.

The event that attracts thousands of fans has been on hold four of the last five years; the last chunk took place three years ago. Due to a combination of insurance, legal and logistics issues, the event was cancelled in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. It returned to the Wheatley Farm near Bridgeville in 2016.

On Feb. 8, organizers said they would stage the event again – if they could find a location. The group is searching for at least 600 acres to accommodate parking, camping, vending and participants.

Hundreds of teams in various divisions – from human powered to powerful air cannons – have competed for bragging rights over the event's three decades of tossing pumpkins.

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 a serious accident involving a show producer, leading to a lawsuit.


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