HOWARD TOWNSHIP — In the obscure sports world, Jim “ Fat Jimmy“ Fuller is a celebrity for his work with punkin’ chunkin’.
And he was the center of attention at the annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Fall Festival at Bald Eagle State Park on Saturday.
With a man-powered launching machine that was built three years ago, Fuller said it has the ability to launch a pumpkin weighing between 8 to 10 pounds, around 1,800 feet.
Eight teams from as far away as South Carolina lined the park beach and took turns every other hour hurling pumpkins into the creek and aiming them at targets. Hilltop Amish Farms donated the pumpkins, Ott said.
As for a strategy, Fuller said it’s all about “loading and launching” as he was testing out a new catapult to his machine
“There’s not much else you can do, but load it and see how far it goes,” Fuller said. “We have some resistance bands that we’ve mastered how much we can pull them, but that’s about it.”
He said on Saturday, his Team High X was just testing the contraption out before it heads to the World Championships in Bridgeville, Del., the first weekend of November.
Fuller brought a team of about a dozen who both work on the launching pad and act as a support system for his work.
“Today, our main objective is to have fun and take in the atmosphere,” he said. “The real importance of today is to raise money for the men and women who serve the area here.”
The festival benefited the Howard Volunteer Fire Company. It brings in about 18 percent of the company’s $120,000 annual budget, said President Mark Ott.
Ott said between 20,000 and 25,000 people were in attendance, a record in the event’s third year. When the fest first began, 10,000 people showed up. Last year, between 15,000 and 17,000 attended, Ott added.
Event founder and organizer George Demchak said the he spearheaded the idea three years ago to hold a fest of this nature to help raise money for the fire company.
When he wasn’t able to get his hands on a launching machine for punkin’ chunkin’, the event almost fell through.
“We kind of owe it to Josh Collins,” he said.
Collins, a volunteer firefighter with the company and engineer at Stahl Sheaffer Engineering in State College, said he jumped in to build the launching machine.
“If they couldn’t get something, I knew I could probably make it,” Collins said. “It just so happened to work and we’ve been using it ever since.”
It took Collins about four weeks and 200 hours to build.
The fire department’s catapult holds up to 1,700 pounds of weight and can hurl a pumpkin around 1,100 feet at 150 mph, Demchak said.
By Monday, meeting will begin to plan next year’s festival, said Ott.
“It’s growing and turning into a nice Howard fall tradition,” Ott said. “The support with locals and people coming in from all over the country is really humbling. A lot of hard work is put behind this event to give back to the area.”
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-468. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.