The day after Halloween, most jack-o’-lanterns end up in the trash, on the compost heap or smashed in the street by devious kids looking for mischief.
But in Delaware, after the candy has been passed out and the sugar high subsided, the glowing orange decorations become projectiles, an event that inspires fierce competition among devoted followers.
The annual World Punkin Chunkin Championship, a pumpkin-launching event, draws more than 30,000 contestants and fans from across the country to Bridgeville, Del., according to the event’s website. The event, which will take place Nov. 4-6, now also features other attractions besides launching pumpkins. There is a beauty pageant, with different age divisions, a chili cook-off, a cooking contest, live entertainment and plenty of pumpkin-inspired meals from different vendors.
Punkin Chunkin has also inspired similar events across the country, as well as the two books.
The World Punkin Chunkin Championship began in 1986 when John Ellsworth, Donald “Doc” Pepper, Bill Thompson and Trey Melson challenged each other in a healthy display of male competition.
“It all started back in 1986,” said Ellsworth to the Cape Gazette, as posted on the event’s website, www.punkinchunkin.com. “We were playing around one day and somebody started talking about throwing pumpkins. There had been an article in a newspaper or on television about some people throwing pumpkins at Salisbury State. A physics class or something. One of us said that they could throw further than someone else and I threw my hat on the ground.”
“Trey and Bill both stomped on my hat and that kind of threw the gauntlet down. I can’t remember who won that first year,” he said.
The longest launch that year was 126 feet, according to the website. The world record, set in 2008, was the launching of a gourd 4,483 feet.
Today the event has grown into a world championship held every year in November, even getting coverage from the Discovery Channel, which began taping the event in recent years and airing it Thanksgiving weekend. A share of the proceeds from the event is donated to several nonprofits, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Meals On Wheels and Childhelp.
A taping of this year’s event, hosted by Discovery Channel Mythbusters’ Kari Byron, Grant Imahara, and Tory Belleci, will air on the Discovery Channel Nov. 24.