Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson & Dakota King
MW & DK: Please introduce yourself?
JR: We are Team Pumpkin Hammer. We are a Punkin Chunkin Team in the Trebuchet division. Our trebuchet is the world’s largest Whipper style. It stands 61 feet tall and has the capacity for 12,000 lbs of counterweight. In 2010, our team won the World Championship in the Trebuchet Division.
The team consists of Rich Foley, Jim Riley, Tim Foley, Dave Hanna, Eric Jordan, JR: Don Hylinski, Jon Mault, John Collett, Mark Hudson, and John Howard (In Memoriam). We have been featured on the Discovery and Science channels and a movie entitled “Flying Pumpkins”.
We can be found at our top secret site – Area 52, Delaware.
MW & DK: How did you get into Punkin Chunkin?
JR: In 2001, Rich Foley, Jim Riley, and John Howard and their families visited the World Championships in Delaware. It was an abnormally hot day for October, but the trio immediately caught the chunkin’ bug. The following Monday, Foley and Howard met in Riley’s office, and the rest was history. The three agreed to form a team and began to develop the foundations of Pumpkin Hammer. The rest is history…
MW & DK: From year to year how long does it take to get ready for the Punkin Chunkin event?
JR: It depends on what we are trying to do. During the years that we are developing a new machine, we obviously spend more time in design, build and testing. This year, we actually started designing the new machine during last year’s Punkin Chunk. We spent most of the Winter/Spring refining the design. The build took place during the summer and testing started in October. We are currently on our 5th generation machine. In non-build years, we typically start upgrading the machine in mid-Summer and test a month before the annual championship. To be honest, we never have enough time to do all the things we really need to do.
MW & DK: What made you all want to get into Punkin Chunkin?
JR: Probably because of all the Punkin Chunkin Groupies… Just kidding. Why do people climb mountains? People often ask us why do Punkin Chunkin? Besides the fun of competition, we really do enjoy seeing the friends we have made in this sport. Quite frankly, they are all very bright, honest, caring and friendly people. And where else can you find a bunch of people trying throw a gourd a mile?
MW & DK: How long has Pumpkin Hammer been around?
JR: It seems forever… Pumpkin Hammer formed in 2001. We first entered in 2002, placing in third place. Over the years, the team has 1- Championship, 3 – Second Places, and 3 – Third Places.
MW & DK: How long did it take to build Pumpkin Hammer?
JR: We are currently on the fifth version of Pumkin Hammer. Builds usually take us approximately two or three months of weekend work.
MW & DK: Is there a certain size pumpkin you have to use?
JR: This comes directly from the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA) Rule Book: Pumpkins must weigh between 8 & 10 pounds. Pumpkins are not to be altered in any way, excluding WCPCA marker paints. All pumpkins must be in their natural state. Pumpkins fired from machine during competition will be measured from the survey team designated point of measurement. Your pit # may be written on your pumpkin to help in the identification in the landing zone. Traditional orange, white, or ornamental pumpkins are allowed. If the WCPCA determines a fruit does not qualify as a pumpkin, proof from the seed manufacturer or commercial grower proving otherwise may be used to overturn this ruling.
One of the main rules of Punkin Chunkin is that the Pumpkin cannot break apart before hitting the ground. If it does, it’s called “Pumpkin Pie” and your throw is disqualified. Team Pumpkin Hammer uses a Calabaza (Green Pumpkin). The reason is that the Calabaza’s shell is thicker and tends to hold together better.
MW & DK: Did you have to make a lot of tweeks to it?
JR: In the world of trebuchets, there are four main variables that we can change. These include 1. Counter weight, 2. Sling Length, 3. Finger angle and 4. Weight of the projectile (Pumpkin). After many years of experience, we have a pretty good idea of our starting points. However, each machine is different, and we never really have the time to completely fine tune the machine.
MW & DK: Pumpkin Hammer came in 3rd. in the Adult Trebuchet category in 2012. Do you feel you could have done better?
JR: Yes… But Pumpkin Hammer is hampered by a curse. Over the past 10 years, very strange things have impacted our machines. For example, this year, our sling line became entangled right before our very first throw. After managing to untangle it, our counterweight cable broke. Thus causing us to miss our first throw.
MW & DK: What do you plan to do to win in 2013?
JR: That’s top secret.
MW & DK: Is Punkin Chunkin just a onetime event each year?
JR: Yes, the World Championship Punkin Chunkin (WCPC) is the name of an annual pumpkin chunkin contest held the first full weekend after Halloween in Sussex County, Delaware. It is governed by the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA). There are other competitions, but the WCPC is the only official event.
MW & DK: Is it always in the same place?
JR: The event originated in 1986 in Sussex County, Delaware. Due to increasing space requirements (distance of shots, number of teams, and number of spectators) the field has moved at least three times. It is now located in Bridgeville, Delaware.
MW & DK: Is there any other chunkin events you do through the year?
JR: Yes, there are other events. But there is only one World Championship. Punkin Chunkin is Delaware’s second largest spectator event, only second to the 140,000 who attend NASCAR’s Dover race.
MW & DK: What would you like to say in closing?
JR: We’d like to all your blog visitors to visit our website www.pumpkinHammer.com and Facebook page. And most importantly, come out to Delaware to root on their favorite Punkin Chunkin Team – Pumpkin Hammer!!!