Like Black Friday and drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, watching Pumpkin Chunkin is a seasonal Fall activity that Americans participate in that makes the rest of the world say "huh?".
Broadcasted yearly on the Science Channel (although it's been cancelled this year), Pumpkin Chunkin is a competition fueled by torque, compressed air and the desire to hurl heavy objects great distances.
There are several categories of machines, such as trebuchet and compressed air canons, as well as different age groups. The teams and their machines have names like "Yankee Siege II", "Smokin Lamas", "Fibonacci Unlimited II" and an all female team's cannon: "Hormone Blaster".
Tradition dictates we tailgate, which in this context means picnicking, grilling, eating and drinking out of the tail gate of someone's car, in this case my friend's Toyota Sequoia, a ridiculously large SUV that was monstrous in the US, let alone the streets of Europe.A fixture at American football games, tailgating is a chance for people to get into the spirit of the event, and talk to other fans. A few guys came over from a nearby camp to admire our beer selection and chat up my friend.
It was pretty cold and windy and we realized if we turned our SUV around, it would block the wind at least. As she pulled out of the parking spot, one of the guys we were talking to previously leaps up and sprints after her, yelling "don't leave me Blondie!"
We were pretty excited to see the trebuchets and catapults, but the schedule had changed and the new order was only posted inside the field area, where you couldn't bring your own food and we were still eating. So unfortunately we missed that, but we were just in time for the cannons. (sorry about the photo quality, these were all taken on my ipod 3 years ago).
A field of artillery greeted us, with flags flying, like some alternate-history battlefield. A loud boom, a puff of smoke and a pumpkin hurtling through air so fast you miss it most of the time. The pumpkins are painted white to help them stand out against the brown grass, but against a bright sky or amid a cloud of smoke they disappear.
Eventually we got the hang of anticipating where the pumpkin would be, otherwise the cannons could have been firing nothing and we would have been none the wiser.
Some, ahem, local charm:
We finished the day at the Dogfish head brew pub in nearby Rehoboth, and after a long drive back, went to bed early.