Blog: What Is Pumpkin Chunkin?

October 13, 2009

Pumpkin Chunkin' at Yankee Seige in Greenfield, NH.

Credit: Catherine Boeckmann
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This autumn, I drove past an unusual site: a giant contraption towering above crowds of cheering people. Suddenly, I saw the machine's "arm" swing forward to hurl something through the air—why, was that a flying pumpkin?

Indeed, I had discovered "pumpkin chunkin," an unusual competition that involves catapulting pumpkins over great distances—in this case, over 2000 feet! Part Americana, part medieval, this unusual activity uses a 60-foot steel throwing machine called a "trebuchet."

As I joined the crowd, the speaker informed us that "trebuchets" use a weighted beam that swings a sling carrying large round rocks—in this case, the projectile is a pumpkin or another safe object. The common catapult is a bit different in that it simply launches a projectile from a winched-down bucket at the end of a giant arm.

Catapults and trebuchets were first used in the first century B.C. as arrow-shooting machines and later used in medieval times to lay siege to castles. The word "catapult" comes from the Greek kata which means "downward," and pultos which means "shield." The literal translation is "shield piercer."

Mechanics aside, this was a very strange life for our orange squash friends! I guess some pumpkins are made into pumpkin pies to be gobbled up. Some are carved into jack-o'-lanterns to smile on Halloween. And some get to be high-flying pies in the sky before crashing back to the earth from whence they came.

What would you choose?

Post your comments on pumpkin chunkin below. And Happy Halloween!


Catherine, our New Media Editor, joined The Old Farmer's Almanac in 2008. She edits content on both this Web site, Almanac.com, and the companion site to The Old Farmer's Almanac for Kids publication, Almanac4kids.com. She also pens the Almanac Companion enewsletters and keeps up with readers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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Comments

I've seen pumpkin chunkin on

By Marian Chapman

I've seen pumpkin chunkin on television and I keep wondering why people insist on using FOOD for such frippery. I wish people would find something else to fling and put those pumpkins or other edibles to better uses.

you've got every right to

By Andy Fox

you've got every right to your opinion, but most of us are farmers and these pumpkins aren't the kind you eat or cook. no poor person could do much if you handed them these pumpkins--except cut a happy face.

I think that these guys in NH

By Tj Hooker

I think that these guys in NH are the champions (maybe 4-5 years in a row) at launching (throwing, chucking, etc) pumpkins. Too much time on their hands?

Very strange custom! Are

By Ann Hicks

Very strange custom! Are there any safety issues? I would hate to be smashed by a pumpkin. This should definitely be made into some kind of a TV reality show!

I think the pumpkin chunkin

By alexandra.h.winters

I think the pumpkin chunkin capital is in Delaware. Check out www.punkinchunkin.com They should serve a slice of pumpkin pie at these events--representative of the smashed pumpkins!

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