Depending on what legend you are listening to, the beginning of Punkin Chunkin varies. This is the one believed to be the closest to the truth. Only the men present in the Blacksmith’s Shop really know the true beginning.
It began in 1986 as a group of men sat in a local blacksmith shop arguing over who could throw an anvil farthest. Someone heard some local college students were throwing pumpkins by hand to raise funds for their school. The group embellished that event. Anvils turned to pumpkins and Punkin’ Chunkin’ was born.
In November of that year, Bill Thompson, Trey Melson, John Ellsworth and the Burton brothers, Chuck & Darryl, met on Thompson’s farm, outside Milton, Delaware, with their inventions. Ellsworth’s chunker was a combination of ropes, tubes and pulleys, while Melson and Thompson’s chunker was various garage doors springs connected to a car frame. The Burtons machine was a wooden pole mounted on a trailer, powered by auto springs. One of the spectators, Larry McLaughlin, maintenance supervisor in a local town, was seen hanging from one of the poles that day and local punkin chunkin rumors were that he was caught up in the action and was attempting to throw a pumpkin by hand. He tossed it 50 feet. By the end of the day, Thompson and Melson were the victors with a throw of 128’ 2”.
Three teams competed that first year, where only a handful of onlookers watched. But since then, the event evolved from human chunkin’ into oversized slingshots, venerated catapults and air cannons with names such as Bad to the Bone, The Terminator, Mellow Yellow, Poor & Hungry and The Aludium Q36 Pumpkin Modulator (named after a weapon used by Marvin the Martian, the pint-sized, high-strung alien from the Warner Brothers cartoon).
Last year, thousands and thousands of teams competed across the continent. Several corporations are entering teams and competing against other companies. The growing popularity of Punkin’ Chunkin’ has spilled into schools around the world. Many teams from local High Schools and colleges compete as part of their physics and science projects. Even families, Scout Troops, and Youth Organizations are now vying for the coveted first place spot and bragging rights.