Gliding gourds going sky-high for Punkin’ Chunkin’

Nothing says November in Sussex County like a cool, crisp breeze, the leaves turning a golden hue and a clear blue sky pierced by hundreds of pumpkins hurtling through the air.

Coastal Point •  File photo: The “MythBusters” co-hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were the hosts for last years Punkin’ Chunkin’.Coastal Point • File photo
The “MythBusters” co-hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were the hosts for last years Punkin’ Chunkin’.

That’s right – Punkin’ Chunkin’ is coming back to Bridgeville next weekend!

From Friday, Nov. 4, through Sunday, Nov. 6, a field just off of Chaplin’s Chapel Road will again transform into a festival, fairground and firing range for air cannons, catapults and trebuchets as teams put their engineering skills to the test for the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ competition.

Contestants will put their contraptions up against each other and gourds will take to the sky in more than a dozen categories, represented by more than 100 entrants. A variety of divisions, including centrifugal, human-powered, torsion, catapult and trebuchet will award winners, but the most anticipated contest is that put on by the pressurized-air division.

Huge air cannons with lengthy barrels aimed high in the sky for maximum trajectory will let out a deafening “pffff,” as pumpkins are shot into the autumn sky. Last year, The Emancipator, manned by captain John Buchele, out of Jefferson, Va., took top honors with a firing that sent a pumpkin 3,728.84 feet. Young Glory III fell short in 2010, with a fifth-place finish, but to this day still holds the world-record chunk with a 4,483.51-foot launch in 2008.

The festivities will kick off on Friday, Nov. 4, with several bands hitting the stages throughout the afternoon and evening. A practice session for all machines will also take place. On Saturday, Nov. 5, the competition will begin at 8 a.m., as musical entertainment continues throughout the day. A cooking contest and fireworks display will also be held on Saturday.

Competition will continue through Sunday, along with the Chili Cookoff and the Miss Punkin’ Chunkin’ Pageant. A 50/50 drawing winner will be announced, and there will be an awards ceremony and the crowning of the new Punkin’ Chunkin’ World Champion at 5:15 p.m.

Over the years, the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ has turned some heads and drawn quite a following. The Discovery Channel and the Science Channel have continued to air features on the unique Sussex County event in recent years.

The competition began in 1986, when a couple of farmers were joking about who could throw a pumpkin the farthest. They took turns and toyed with the idea of using contraptions to make them go even farther. And, as they say, the rest is history.

The weekend-long event now draws curious newcomers and devout followers numbering in the tens of thousands, and has grossed more than $100,000 in ticket sales since it began. While some of the sales are used to fund the event each year, the majority of the proceeds are distributed in the form of scholarships awarded to a variety of community organizations.

Admission costs $10 per person, each day, and parking is free. Children younger than 10 are admitted free of charge. Gates open at 7:30 a.m. all three days, and the chunkin’ officially ends at dusk each day. Food and drink vendors, crafts, games and rides will be available, as well.

For more information about the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival, including directions, past results and more, visit