(we're the guys presenting this page). !!!
<FONT="#000000"> <!=============******** FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ******========>
Author: Carlisle Landel
Well, here it is, the promised report on the 1994 World Championship Punkin Chunkin. First, some background.
It seems that about 9 years ago, a bunch of guys in lower (slower) Delaware decided to see who could build a machine who could throw a 10 lb pumpkin farthest. The event quickly outgrew its humble beginnings as the contestants got better and better at this task, and eventually its organization and production was taken over by the Lewes Chamber of Commerce and moved to an abandoned airfield. It now draws in excess of 10,000 observers and contestants to a day- long event featuring multiple classes of pumpkin throwing. But
Last year  saw an end to the three-year domination by centrifugal machines, when a pneumatic slingshot launched a pumpkin 1,024 feet, beating the closest competitor by over 200 feet. The centrifugal boys were aiming for revenge, vowing to build bigger and faster machines. Everyone was predicting winning throws in the quarter-mile range. Meanwhile, the guy who had retired from the event after winning the first three years because "it was just to damn easy to beat all them other guys," came out of retirement to show everybody he could "still whip their butts," entering his newest creation, a pneumatic cannon with a 22 foot barrel that he could crank up to "2500, mehbbe 3,000 psi."
The day dawned bright and unseasonably warm, and Kathy, Matt and Carol (a friend from work) were to meet at my house for a 9 am rendezvous. Carol arrived promptly at 9; Matt and Kathy about a half-hour later (Kathy having figured out long ago the conversion from EST to LST-Landel Standard Time). The Chunkin started at 10, but we figured that they wouldn't get around to the unlimited class until the afternoon. After some discussion about plans and logistics associated with what we were going to do for the rest of day in the context of having to meet Grace in DC the next morning between 8 and 9, and some breakfast, and a perusal of the morning's news, we loaded up my *new* car with beach chairs, kayak, wave ski, various flying toys, wet suits and munchies and headed south. At 11:30. Right on time....
We rolled up to the event site at about 1. There were thousands and thousands (the newspaper later estimated a crowd of over 10,000) of folks on this long field. The state cops were directing traffic, flags were flying, vendors were selling food and drink, helicopter and plane rides were being offered (it turned out that the "abandoned air field" was really an abandoned runway at a private air park), and a group of unlikely looking contraptions were clustered down at one end of the site, in front of a huge, roped-off area. We got there just as the unlimited class got started--as we were walking in, still about 1000 feet from the machines, a pumpkin came crashing down into the target area next to us. Basically, the thing turned into a spray when it hit, leaving a significant crater. Cheers erupted from the multitude.
The machines were quite impressive looking. There were three centrifugal machines, Bad to the Bone, De-Terminator and Ultimate Warrior, which essentially were frames supporting 15-30 foot rotating arms with buckets at the end. Last years winner, Under Pressure", was a big steel frame like a crane arm with a Y at the end and a complicated series of cables, all painted pumpkin orange--I never did get close enough to figure out how it worked. The Polytechnic Institute of Gravitational Science had a 150 foot crane with a wrecking ball attached--obviously this was some sort of a gravity-powered slingshot. "Loaded Boing" resembled a traditional slingshot with a bad hyperthyroid problem: it looked like a pair of bridge pilings (or very obese telephone poles, maybe 2 or 3x normal diameter) had been sunk into the ground and guy-wired, and 3 or 4 pieces of what looked like latex surgical tubing except that it must have been about a foot in diameter attached to some sort of pumpkin holder were slung between the poles; the whole thing was drawn back by a power winch. Then there was the New Bethel Church Marching Band Tabernacle Choir Motorcycle Club Pumpkin Throwing Team of Reston Virginia, who were there mostly for a good time and armed with a flexible fiberglass pole that was to act as a catapult, mounted on the roof of a bus. And finally, there was "Universal Soldier", the pneumatic cannon, which was mounted on a vehicle that consisted of an old station wagon body on a 3/4 ton truck chassis; the whole thing was painted in cammo and the barrel, all 22 feet, was elevated to a 45 degree angle.
The centrifugal machines were impressive to watch. "Bad to the Bone" seemed to be powered, we think, by a diesel-electric motor. A huge frame shaped like a swingset frame was mounted on a flatbed, and the motors were on the top. They would crank up loudspeakers with George Thoroughgood's "Bad to the Bone" at high decibels, fire up a diesel engine, and the arm, painted bright orange, would start spinning faster and faster. At something between 1 and 2 revs per second, a trap door at the bottom of the bucket at the end of the arm sprung open, and the pumpkin would fly in this amazing arc and splat around 1200 feet down-range. "Ultimate Warrior" seemed to have some kind of monster engine mounted on top and connected to the shaft, and it too would spin up to incredible speeds before launch. I'm not sure what powered the "De-Terminator". Then the PIGS fired up. The crowd was warned to pay close attention, since this machine had never before fired a pumpkin. And in the launch area, people were asked to stay out from underneath the crane. Suddenly, the wrecking ball began to drop, and cable running over the top of the crane began to pay out very fast, and then pieces of pumpkin came flying over the top of the crane. The NBCMBTCMCPT Team went next. They all crowded around their shaft, bodily bending it down. With a loud cheer they let it go, and the pumpkin payload flew up and out about 20 feet. Backwards. "Under Pressure" went next--like I said, I'm not sure how i worked--but suddenly pieces of pumpkin came flying through the Y. Another pumpkin pie throw. Then it was "Loaded Boing's" turn. The winch began to pull back the slingshot, and ever so slowly it stretched more and more. Then the sling came flying forward, and . . . nothing came out. At first. The payload jumped back and forth between the posts about 3 times until suddenly the pumpkin was released. Also backwards, setting a new reverse throw world record of maybe 50 feet. And then it was time for the "Universal Soldier" to take a turn. The crowd was warned to watch very closely. Suddenly there was a sound like the cork popping from the universe's largest champagne bottle, as a cloud of vapor shot out of the barrel. But nobody saw any pumpkins flying through the air. People in the crowd looked at each other, puzzled. One of the spotters, standing maybe 1200 feet downrange, was wandering around in a confused manner. Suddenly, his companion jumped into his pickup and went bouncing downrange at high speed. And then, over the loudspeakers came the announcement that pieces of pumpkin had been found in the bottom of a crater about 2000 feet away!
At this point, we were more than a little skeptical. We couldn't imagine how the pumpkin hadn't been turned into microscopic spray, and figured that somebody had simply dropped a pumpkin down by the road. Put we were proven wrong.
The second round was pretty much a repeat of the first, except that the Motorcycle Club Etc. launched an orange helium balloon instead of a pumpkin, to fire correctly this time; however, they were set up to fire at about a 15 degree angle instead of the necessary 45, and so the crowd was treated to the spectacle of a pumpkin travelling very fast and nearly horizontally, and in fact it must have shot around 300 feet at least. And when it came time for the "Soldier" to fire, I (and probably the rest of the crowd) resolved to watch *very* closely. This time they stopped traffic on the highway beyond the end of the field--clearly they were being serious about this world record stuff. They were also waiting for a break in the helo traffic, as the copters were landing through what had suddenly turned out to be the flight path of high-speed gourds, a collision with which would almost certainly be disastrous. Then, with a loud *FOOP* and a cloud of vapor, they fired, and suddenly, *WAY* up in the sky, over the spot where the best of the other machines were landing their pumpkins, I spotted a small orange dot, and *IT WAS STILL GOING UP!!!*. At an impossible speed, too! And then for a microsecond I lost my concentration, and it disappeared from view. Word came back that it had indeed landed on the highway (flying over where my car was parked--YIKES!), but they were having trouble figuring out exactly how far the shot had gone, as there were buildings and trees and, for all I know, the curvature of the earth, between the launch and impact spots, all things guaranteed to make laser rangefinding problematic. But somehow they finally figured out that they had shot a pumpkin over 2500 feet!
After that, the third round promised to be anti-climactic, and we headed back
to the car to dig out the flying toys and give them a try, seeing as we had all
these open fields in which to test the various boomerangs etc that we owned.
The centrifugal machines continued to lob around a quarter mile, the other
machines still mis-fired, and the "Soldier" made one more token 2000 foot
throw, but we were busy playing. And then, since it was nearly 80 degrees
out, and you don't usually get such nice weather in November in these parts,
we went on down to the beach for a much-needed surf session (That is to say,
not only did we need to surf, but the beaches here need surf, too.), which is
another story. But as we drove off, we couldn't help but be impressed by the
fact that a bunch of guys were able to fire pumpkins over a quarter mile. It
was a masterful combination of whimsy and technology, a tour de force that
had transcended silly to arrive at awe-inspiring. And finally, we had to
wonder whether the winner, who had indeed and most convincingly
demonstrated that he could whip the butts of all comers, had rendered the
competition pointless, or at least impractical. Unless, of course, that they
can convince the Air Force to lend them Dover Air Force Base, with its huge
runway, for next year's event site. Hmmm . . . .
Universal Soldier takes back the "Crown" at 3718 feet
Specific Rules: Unlimited Class: Weight of the pumpkin: between eight and ten pounds. Pumpkin integrity: must leave the machine intact. Starting line: no machine shall cross. Explosives: NOT PERMITTED Human Powered: Unlimited Rules will apply and - Time limit of two minutes starting at the cocking of the machine until "ready-to-fire." Using only the energy of one human being. The machine may consist of counter-weights, springs, or other devices incorporated by the work (stored power) of the human in the two minute time limit. Youth Classes: Previous official rules apply. Machines shall be built the youth within their class. Firing of the machine will be by the youth within their class Class I: Under ten years: Pumpkin weight: 2 pounds. Class II : Eleven to seventeen years old: Pumpkin weight: 4 pounds.
Disclaimer: Information available as is, and subject to changes.