Crunchin’ those pumpkins

PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON—Contraptions of varied design launch pumpkins at a cost of $1 per customer Sunday during the third annual Pumpkin Chunkin’ event northwest of Grand Junction.

Jeff Smith’s pumpkin chunkin’ days began when he saw radio station KEKB’s attempt at pumpkin launching in the late 1990s.

“It was lame,” Smith said of the country station’s pumpkin thrower.

He set out to make a better one the following October and has been hooked ever since.

Smith helped load pumpkins into a slingshot-style contraption Sunday afternoon at the third annual Pumpkin Chunkin’ event at Lower Valley Pumpkin Patch near L and 23 roads. Attendees paid $1 to launch pumpkins from their chunker of choice and watch them sail over the pumpkin patch before landing with a hollow thud and cracking into pieces.

The slingshot was one of four large pumpkin-hurling devices at the event. Other designs were a catapult, a cannon and a trebuchet, which gains momentum from having a weight on one end of a rod and a throwing arm on the other.

Brothers Jason and Don Abbott worked the trebuchet, which had a Chevrolet engine as a counterweight that launched a pumpkin up and over the contraption every time the brothers let loose a chord that had been holding the engine in the air.

“It probably took us about two weeks to make,” Jason Abbott said.

Although the Abbotts and Smith always had pumpkin throwing in mind when designing their pumpkin chuckers, members of local Renaissance group the Black Scorpions designed their catapult to hurl bowling balls. Black Scorpions member Dan Ortega said the catapult is less predictable when hurling pumpkins because, unlike bowling balls, they vary in weight. But it’s still fun to bring out the 9-year-old wooden catapult for the pumpkin chunkin’ event.

The group built the catapult by following examples in a book and figuring out more exact dimensions and measurements by researching online.

“It looked pretty simple,” Ortega said.


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