Archive for the ‘Punkin Chunkin’ Category

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!!!

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Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson & Dakota King

MW & DK: Please introduce yourself?
JG: My name is Jay Goodell. I’m 29 and live in New Hampshire. I’m one of the captains of the Launch-Ness Monster trebuchet team.

MW & DK: How did you get into Punkin Chunkin?

JG: In 2005, an organizer for a local charity, who worked with my mother, was looking to throw pumpkins for a fundraiser. I was put in touch with them and built my first trebuchet. It was about 15 feet tall and could throw a small pumpkin a hundred feet or so. They wanted to use the machine at an annual pumpkin festival in Milford, NH. At the event, kids got to pick out their pumpkin from a large pile and we’d load it into the trebuchet. Once we were out of the way, the kids got to pull the trigger and send the pumpkin out into a lake. There were a couple of scarecrows floating on inner tubes for targets. If the shot hit one of the targets the kids won a prize. The charity collected a dollar for each pumpkin and made a few hundred dollars over the weekend. I built a larger trebuchet for the same festival the next year, and still use it at the same festival every year. In 2007, I went to Delaware to see the championships for the first time. Our first year in the competition there was 2009.

MW & DK: From year to year how long does it take to get ready for the Punkin Chunkin event?
JG: We have two machines that we bring to the event. We bring Launch-Ness Monster, a trebuchet, and Chunk Norris, a catapult. We usually start working one night a week in the middle of the summer. We’ll start working a couple of nights in the fall. By October we usually end up working every night and all weekend. Things were really busy during 2010 and 2011 when we were building the machines from scratch. This year we were just making improvements, but it still takes a lot of time.

MW & DK: What made you all want to get into Punkin Chunkin?
JG: We got into Punkin Chunkin for the combination of engineering, fabrication, and the absurdity of seeing how far we can throw a pumpkin. I’ve always loved taking things apart and building new projects. Punkin Chunkin is a perfect outlet for that. I never expected it to become such a big part of my life, but now I’m hooked. We’ve met a lot of great people down there who we look forward to seeing each year.

MW & DK: How long has Launch-Ness Monster been around?
JG: We first went to Punkin Chunkin in 2009 with a machine called Launch-Ness Monster. It was much smaller than the current version and built mostly out of wood. It was a decent machine, but we only came in 10th place. When we built the machine we were hoping to throw around 750 feet. When we started that wouldn’t have won, but might have gotten us into the top 5. The rest of the machines made huge improvements in 2009. Before that only 4 teams had ever thrown farther than 1000 feet with a trebuchet. That year, 9 teams did it. We came up just short, with a best throw of 971 feet. The machine ripped itself apart on that shot. We knew we would have to build something better if we wanted to be competitive.

MW & DK: How long did it take to build Launch-Ness Monster?
JG: We spent a few months working on the design for the current Launch-Ness Monster. There were lots of drawings and simulations to figure out how we wanted it to work and how to build it. We ordered our first batch of steel in August and started building near the end of the month. We worked every moment we could until the competition in November to get ready. When we left for the competition the machine still wasn’t ready. We finished building the machine on the firing line and cocked it for the first time down there. We never had a chance for a test shot, so our first competition shot was the first time we fired.

MW & DK: Is there a certain size pumpkin you have to use?
JG: The rules state we have to use a pumpkin between 8 and 10 pounds. We try and find the hardest, densest pumpkin we can. All of the competition pumpkins have to be weighed and inspected to make sure they are “legal.” Only certain varieties are allowed at the competition. We can’t alter them in any way. People always ask if we’re allowed to freeze them or do anything to make them stronger, but we can’t. We usually get our pumpkins down at the competition. The association provides some and we’re allowed to bring our own, but we usually work out deals with other teams we’ve met down there to get the best pumpkins. A good pumpkin can make a huge difference.

MW & DK: Did you have to make a lot of tweaks to it?
JG: The basic operation of the trebuchet hasn’t changed since we built it. Most of the tweaks we’ve made have been to make it easier to cock the machine and to prevent misfires or pies. We had a lot of trouble the first year getting everything to work correctly. A few small changes have made everything work much smoother.

MW & DK: Launch-Ness Monster came in 8th in the Adult Trebuchet category in 2012. Do you feel you could have done better?
JG: It’s hard to tell. I wanted to do better this year, but the competition down there is very stiff. We’d thrown some really far shots during our test firing this fall, so I had high hopes. We weren’t getting the same distances at the competition though. The wind played a big factor, but it probably hurt everyone else just as much as us.

MW & DK: What do you plan to do to win in 2013?
JG: The machine is designed to throw with up to 4000 pounds of counterweights. At the competition this year we tried 3000 pounds for the first time. So, we still have some more power we can use. We can also tune the machine more aggressively. When we designed the machine we made several parts adjustable. One big adjustment we’ve never played with is our main axle position. The farther we move it forward, the harder we throw. We have five slots for the axle, and we’ve only ever tried it in the middle position. If we move it up to the first we get a ton more power, but we risk breaking the machine. I think we’ll be trying it next year though. We focused a lot of our time this year on Chunk Norris. That machine did win the catapult division this year at Punkin Chunkin. We have big plans for that machine as well. We know we can shoot a lot farther than what we’ve been doing.

MW & DK: Is Punkin Chunkin just a onetime event each year?
JG: It is for us. There’s been some talk about other events starting up around us. We’d love to bring the machines out to those. They wouldn’t be anywhere near the size of the competition in Delaware, but it would be nice for more people to get to see what we do.

MW & DK: Is it always in the same place?

JG: The World Championships have always been in Delaware. They’ve had to change fields a few times to hold the larger crowds, and make room for the longer shots.

MW & DK: Are there any other chunkin events you do through the year?
JG: Just the World Championships and the fundraiser in Milford, but we’d like to find more.

MW & DK: What would you like to say in closing?
JG: I never get to say it enough, but I really want to thank all the friends that help us out every year. We have a really great group who work their butts off getting the machines ready and operating them at the competition. It’s a lot of work to build, test, and move both machines. I also want to thank my fiancé for putting up with all of us. She’s been down to the competition every year and has to deal with all of us working on Punkin Chunkin most of the year.