OA: Pumpkin Chuckin Festival October 245, 2008

The Pumpkin Pirates Trebuchet from Moab and sponsored by WabiSabi. This year, the team has the name Team Knights of the Plumed Pumpkin.

Photos courtesy of Youth Garden Project
Puff the Magic Dragon Air Cannon from Olathe. It won the Pumpkin Chuckin’ contest in 2007.

It’s a bird. Nope.

It’s a plane. Nope.

It’s a pumpkin!

For Dale Irish of Moab, it’s not the sight of pumpkins rocketing into the sky or the satisfying sound they make going splat all over the ground that he gets excited about.

“I’m afraid it’s not that simplistic,” he said.

He enjoys chuckin’ pumpkins for a good cause.

Moab’s third annual Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival on Saturday, Oct. 25, is organized by and benefits the town’s Youth Garden Project.

The nonprofit youth garden offers organic gardening, educational programs and community service opportunities to the area’s youth. The idea of a sustained community is big in Moab, Irish said.

And so is chuckin’ pumpkins.

People from around the region build pumpkin chuckers — trebuchets, cannons, catapults and sling shots — and the crowd watches the pumpkins soar.

But that’s not all the festival offers. Catch live bluegrass music by The Metamoocil Mountain Boys, pumpkin pie eating and seed spitting contests, a parade and costume contest, food and craft vendors and games for children. Earlier that Saturday morning there is also a 5K fun run/walk.

“It’s a fall festival to celebrate the harvest and autumn, but it also has a renaissance fair flare to it,” said Delite Primus, associate director of the youth garden.

Pumpkin chuckers are judged by four criteria: distance, accuracy, creative design and team theatrics (costumes are encouraged).

Team Knights of the Plumed Pumpkin, sponsored by the WabiSabi nonprofit thrift store, will have a whole knight and dragon theme going on while launching pumpkins from their new large sling shot/crossbow.

“We’re champions of reduce, reuse and restyle,” said Irish, who leads the team with his cousin, Robert Irish. “We’re kind of knights of the kingdom of WabiSabi… there’s a little marketing thrown in there.”

Irish said he heard that a college professor in Price, Utah made building a trebuchet a requirement for his engineering students, and several of those designs will be at the festival.

For the last two years the WabiSabi team has launched pumpkins with a full scale trebuchet, but not this year.

This year, the team wanted to demonstrate that anybody can build a chucker, which is why they built a sling shot, Irish said.

Trebuchets shot pumpkins more than 300 feet last year, but air canons were shooting the farthest at just under a mile, according to the youth garden.

“But half of the pumpkins disintegrated,” Irish said about the air canons, which disqualifies the shoot.

“That’s the problem with air canons.”

Another challenge is actually getting the chucker to the site of the festival. Team Knights of the Plumed Pumpkin built their sling shot onto a trailer bed for transportation.

The hours of labor are worth it though, Irish said.

He’s especially looking forward to the Youth Garden’s vegetarian chili.

“It’s to die for,” he said.

View some past pumpkin chuckin’ at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prySCefzNLY

What: Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival.

When: Saturday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pumpkin launching starts at noon; the costume parade, 1 p.m.; and the pie eating contest, 2:15 p.m.

Where: Six miles south of Moab off U.S. Highway 191 on Old Airport Road (follow the signs).

Tickets: Adults $10, youth 14 and under $5, children under 2 get in for free. Parking is free.

Info: 435-259-2326, http://www.youthgardenproject.org.


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