Punkin Chunkin returning to Bridgeville staging venue


chunk bad to bone smoky start

The Bad to the Bone centrifugal machine cranks up for an attempt at Punkin Chunkin.

BRIDGEVILLE – The “Chunk” is a definite go for 2016 – in Sussex County.

After a two-year absence, the iconic gourd-winging event born and raised in Sussex County will return to the Wheatley Farms Inc. property where it was last staged in the fall of 2013.

World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association board president Frank Payton confirmed Saturday that an arrangement with the Wheatley family has been worked out for the event to return to the specious farm venue east of Bridgeville.

This year’s event will be held Nov. 4-6.

“There is a certain level of relief that we are returning to where we have been successfully able to hold the event but we still have a lot ahead of us,” said Mr. Payton, referring to the cost to put on the event.

An insurance policy required to protect the landowner will cost the association nearly three times what was previously paid. Costs to host the event have increased over the years and after not having the event for two years, the association will now start focusing on the budget, Mr. Payton said in a press release posted on the Delaware Surf Fishing Facebook site.

“People need to realize that we are a non-profit and all the money we make at our annual event is given back,” said Mr. Payton.

CHUNK young glory III

Milton-based Young Glory III, a former world record holder in the air cannon division, will return to the 2016 Punkin Chunkin.

“We are definitely super excited,” said Milford resident Jake Burton, whose Young Glory III air cannon team is based in Milton. “I have been part of the land search. We are super thankful for all of the other counties that have also helped us out and let us look at their properties. But this opportunity is amazing.”

“I’ve been telling everybody it’s a 99.9-percent approved thing. We have a letter of intent on the insurance policy,” said longtime WCPCA spokesman Frank Shade, who noted the policy will not be issued until 90 days prior to the event. “So that is the only caveat in the whole thing, which is not really a caveat. Something would have to happen that we did something wrong, and we don’t do anything before the event.”

Punkin Chunkin was held at the Wheatley Farm property from 2007 through 2013.

Organizers began the search for a new location when the farm owner – along with the WCPCA – were hit with a multi-million-dollar lawsuit stemming from an injury sustained by a volunteer spotter at the 2011 event.

In light of that litigation, Dale Wheatley notified the WCPCA that the event could no longer be held at the Wheatley site.

Punkin Chunkin appeared headed north to Kent County but events scheduled in 2014 and 2015 at The Woodlands on Dover International Speedway property were ultimately cancelled.

But now it’s back.

“It’s really nice,” Mr. Burton said. “We know the base planning for the event so instead of having the learning curve of somewhere new, we’ll be able to take what we have done in the past and tweak it.”

Over time, Punkin Chunkin has grown from an experimental competition among a few friends in the mid-1980s into a huge charity-based spectacle as well as a boost to the area’s economy.

In its prime, it has raised large sums of money for scholarships and local, national and charitable causes while drawing tens of thousands of spectators and more than 100 pumpkin-winging machines and contraptions from across America and several from other parts of the globe.


Punkin Chunkin has also garnered a prime-time Thanksgiving Night airing on Discovery Science.

With continued support and assistance of State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, some members of the WCPCA board met with Gov. Jack Markell and the Delaware Economic Development Office to discuss what assistance can be offered to this Delaware tradition that started in 1986.

“All options are being reviewed to make sure to get this event back on track and to ensure its future,” said Sen. Pettyjohn.

The 2013 event attracted about 30,000 spectators.

“Fans stayed in Delaware’s hotels, ate at our restaurants, filled up their vehicles at our gas stations and purchased products or services from Delaware businesses,” said Sen. Pettyjohn.

Mr. Shade shared information on several changes.

Straddle-type vehicles prohibited

“For insurance purposes we will not be allowing on our side of the fence or anywhere on the property any straddle-type devises; no ATVs, dirt bikes, lawn mowers, nothing that have been ridden on the pit side in the past,” said Mr. Shade.

Spotters will be in side by side utility vehicles – UTVs, with seatbelts and roll cages.

In addition, a more stringent spotter policy will be implemented.

No carry-on alcohol in spectator/walk-around area

“On the spectator side, we’re not going to allow carry-on alcohol to the spectator area any longer. We’re looking into a vendor coming on and setting up beer vending locations,” said Shade. “Over the years that has gotten a little bit out of hand and we’re looking to control that a little closer.”

Alcohol can be brought into the camping areas and tailgating area.

“But in the spectator area there will be no carry-on alcohol,” said Mr. Shade. “You can have it at your campsite, but it cannot be brought into the walk-around/spectator area.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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