On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Get ready to ‘chunk’ some pumpkins

October 9, 2013 

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The Howard Volunteer Fire Company’s “Punkin Chunkin” festival returns next weekend to Bald Eagle State Park.

ABBY DREY — CDT file photo Buy Photo

Come to Bald Eagle State Park on Oct. 19 for a guaranteed gourd time.

The Howard Volunteer Fire Company’s “Punkin Chunkin” Festival is back, bigger than ever. For its third appearance, the fundraiser event will feature 10 trebuchets hurling pumpkins hundreds of feet into Sayers Lake at speeds of about 400 mph.

Trebuchets date to the Middle Ages, when they were used as siege weapons to batter castles. Several slated to pummel the lake have appeared on the Discovery Channel’s broadcast of the annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin competition held in November in Bridgeville, Del.

“Pumpkin chunking,” as a sport, centers on hurling, or “chunking,” pumpkins for distance with mechanical devices.

Festival trebuchets will arrive at the park bearing colorful monikers such as “Skypult,” “Half a Bubble Off,” “Pumpkin Flight School” and, most oddly, “Smoking Llamas.”

“These are really a bunch of character-type people,” said George Demchak, a fire company member and festival organizer. “It just should be hilarious and very entertaining.”

On hand will be Discovery Channel personality Jim “Fat Jimmy” Fuller, a 14-year veteran of pumpkin chunkin’ who plans on competing with his Team High X at the world championship Nov. 1-3.

“Fat Jimmy is well-known,” Demchak said. “He’s a pumpkin chunking celebrity.”

This year’s launcher lineup more than doubles the 2012 artillery array. Attendance also has grown. About 15,000 people visited the festival last year, a significant increase from the debut event.

One new feature will be a period, probably for about a half-hour, when the public can visit the trebuchets, talk to the launchers and “really get a good feel for how these machines operate and what it takes,” Demchak said.

In addition to all the pumpkin projectiles, the festival will offer live music, hayrides, a pie-eating contest, a farmer’s market, about 110 craft vendors and more than 30 food stands.

Everything begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m. Parking and admission are free.

“It makes me very happy to see so many people enjoying themselves while they lend a helping hand to the fire department,” Demchak wrote in an email. “Each year it just gets better and better. If you haven’t seen this yet, you sure don’t want to miss it.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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