Extreme Punkin Chunkin’ event smashes into speedway
The cannon is powered using a large tank approximately 12 to 15 feet long and 3 feet in diameter.
“It’s like a propane tank, but it’s filled with air,” he said. “We don’t use anything that can catch fire or explode.”
There is also a science behind the pumpkins that are used for competitions, as they are grown from seed on local farms under the direction of a Team American Chunker member whose “day job” is with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
“We have a group on the team we refer to as the PHD department, which stands for Pumpkin Harvest Department,” laughed Pierce. “I’m in that group, and we look for the best round pumpkin, which is usually about 8 to 10 pounds and 8 to 10 inches in diameter.”
He got involved in launching pumpkins because he had some friends whose brothers were into the sport. After watching Team American Chunker perform at the world championships on TV in 2009, he said he pleaded and begged to become part of the group.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Pierce, who added that most of the year is spent waiting and watching for the pumpkins to grow beginning in about April.
“In September and October, we do a lot of testing and participate in smaller events,” he said. “It gets pretty intense every weekend during that time.”
Aside from the fun factor, he said Team American Chunker works to support local charities, including New England Basset Hound Rescue and the Wounded Warrior Project.
“The World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association also raises money for scholarships and other organizations that benefit local communities,” he said. “We want to keep ‘chunkin’ and give back at the same time.”
For those who have never attended such an event, he said the excitement level is fairly high.
“It’s like a rodeo atmosphere,” he said.
His only word of advice is for those new to the sport is to make sure they pay attention.
“Sometimes, the pumpkins go backwards into the crowds,” he said with a laugh. “It can surprise some people.”
Teams from across the country will use machines including trebuchets, catapults and air cannons to launch pumpkins during the Extreme Chunkin event.
Harvest festival activities at the speedway also will include carnival rides, pumpkin carving and face painting.
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