After 2016 mishap, Punkin Chunkin now set to return

BRIDGEVILLE — Ending months of speculation on the future of a “Delaware tradition” that suffered a tragic mishap last year, officials on Saturday announced the return of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin.

The event is scheduled for Nov. 3-5 in the same farm field as 2016.

“We will be moving forward this year,” Punkin Chunkin Association President Frank Payton said at a news conference broadcast live on Facebook. “There is too much at stake to give up now.”

Reading from a prepared statement, Mr. Payton pointed to millions of dollars the nonprofit event has generated for the area and state for over 30 years and hopes local entities “feel that we are worth saving.”

The event was staggered last November when a woman was critically injured when an air cannon malfunctioned. The Science Channel opted not to televise the event afterward and has since severed ties to the event, taking significant funding with it.

Jeff Weight of Howard Pa. shoots T-shirts into the crowd at a past Punkin Chunkin.

“We have appreciated their relationship over the years in helping us promote our event worldwide and wish them the best,” Mr. Payton said.

“With them withdrawing from the event, a major portion of the funding that we need to operate has left with them. We are in the market to establish new mutually beneficial partnerships for 2017.”

According to Mr. Payton, Punkin Chunkin has generated over $1 million returned to the community and its youth since 2000, and touted the event’s economic impact locally generating millions of dollars.

“We donate locally and nationally to other non-profits and scholarships for deserving youths,” he said.

Now, Punkin Chunkin officials are asking for community backing in what has “become a part of Americana.”

“We hope that our non-profit organization will overcome any future obstacles with the support of the community as a whole,” Mr. Payton said.

Mr. Payton made a pitch for support from company to individual participation.

“If you are a network that is looking for a highly rated topic for a television show, we want to talk to you,” he said.

“If you are company that would like to take the full advantage of our advertising capability and the attention that we receive, we want to talk to you.

“If you are an individual that wants us to continue on, we want to hear from you.

“If you wish to see the Chunk continue, we need your support now more than ever.”

A donation page is available online at www.punkinchunkin.com/weneedhope. Volunteer information can be obtained by e-mailing info@punkinchunkin.com and more details are available at www.punkinchunkin.com

Children will continue to benefit from the science, technology, engineering and math facets associated with propelling pumpkins airborne “and the aspects of what our event has to offer in the imagination of our future,” Mr. Payton said.

Mr. Payton said the organization’s safety committee is thoroughly reviewing operations to assure best practices.

Also utilized are the Delaware Department of Transportation, Bridgeville Fire Department, and Delaware State police “to make sure that we have a well-organized and safe event.” The organization has spent over $100,000 annually to enlist the local and state-provided agencies.

No updates on the injured woman were provided on Saturday, and no comment on potential pending litigation was offered.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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