A match made in a corn field?

MD-punkin chunkin at 2x-0080315

Special to Dorchester Banner/DCHS
The Smokin! catapult will make its appearance at this year’s Tomato Festival on Aug. 22, tossing watermelons instead of pumpkins.

VIENNA — When Bill Thompson challenged some friends back in the fall of 1986, he had no idea where that friendly competition would take him. Neither did Dawn, his wife. Though it wasn’t predicted, the endeavor has to have surpassed their wildest dreams. Now, almost 30 years later, they are still just as enthusiastic about their sport as ever.

Punkin’ Chunkin’ was launched that long ago, as a contest between several friends. The challenge was to see who could build the best pumpkin tossing machine.

This annual event has grown and is always held the first Saturday after Halloween. From the 50 or so people that attended the first one to the 25,000+ that have attended in recent years, it’s clear that the public loves this zany, fun-filled sport. Punkin Chunkin is now nationwide with competitions sanctioned throughout the year, all over the United States. This organization believes in giving back to the community, with children a primary focus. Punkin Chunkin has reportedly donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

On Aug. 22, Punkin’ Chunkin’ will be at the Great Eastern Shore Tomato Festival in Vienna. Visitors will have a chance to look at and even operate several of these.

There will be two, pint-sized versions, that the youngest chunkers can operate — of course tossing tomato tennis balls! These mini versions have the ability to throw between 30 and 50 feet and competitions may arise.

In addition to the children’s machines, there will be two of the “real” ones in attendance — Smokin! and The Road Warrior. These two have seen their share of competition and will be on hand for demonstration throughout the day. Some of the competitors — trebuchets, catapults, air cannons and others — can easily hurl their shot ¾ mile or more.

When Tomato Festival organizers first spoke to the Thompsons, they knew that it was a perfect match — well almost. With no pumpkins in sight at this time of year, and tomatoes a bit too small, it was agreed that watermelons would be the ammunition of choice. Overripe (rotten) melons will make this event into Melon Mania, for the day!

The public is encouraged to come out and show their support for Dorchester heritage, as it is widely known that Punkin Chunkin, the organization, is looking for a new home, preferably in Maryland. The farmland would have to include about 1,000 acres and be a mile in length, due to the great distances that the competition-worthy machines can throw.

For information about being involved in the Tomato Festival or about Punkin Chunkin aka Melon Mania, please contact the Dorchester County Historical Society (DCHS) at 410-228-7953 or dchs@verizon.net. DCHS is the nonprofit that is sponsoring the 4th Annual Great Eastern Shore Tomato Festival.

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