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Former Champs React to Punkin Chunkin’s Return

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After two years of cancellations due to insurance and location issues, Punkin Chunkin is finally back. The famous pumpkin-tossing competition, which attracts participants from around the country, will return to its former location at Wheatley Farms in Bridgeville, Del. on Nov. 4–6.

The event struggled to recover since a 2013 ATV accident during the competition, which resulted in a lawsuit against Punkin Chunkin. Last year, it was cancelled just six weeks before it was to take place.

Former division champion and fan favorite Kenny Kite of Elkton, Va., says several participants were angry about the last year’s cancellation, but he is very excited to participate again and already has his sights set on history. “We fully expect to set a new world record,” says Kite.

Kite’s team, “Shooda Noed Beter,” has participated since 2011, when they came in eighth in the “Adult Human Powered.” The next two years, the team rocketed up the standings, finishing second in 2012 and winning in 2013, setting a world record of 2,048.52 feet in the latter event. This year, Kite wants to hit 3,000 feet.

Keen observation plays a big role in “Shooda Noed Beter’s” success. Kite says he watched video of other teams’ contraptions, such as perennial contenders “Gene’s Machine” and “Pumpkin Slayers,” for months to formulate what kind of machine would work best.

He realized they would be unable to beat some of the more experienced competitors, ones who had perfected their catapults using bike power or rowing machine power. They decided they needed to change the game to succeed, so they designed what amounts to a large hamster wheel that, when someone runs on it, powers a 20-foot arm. “It’s not like we are geniuses over here,” says Kite. “We walked over a lot of people to get where we are. The people who were already there deserve a lot of the credit.”

Punkin Chunkin legend Donny Jefferson, of Milton, Del., has already crossed the 3,000-foot threshold Kite is aiming for this year. His team, “Bad to the Bone,” won the “Adult Centrifugal” division 11 times in 13 years, including setting the world record in 2013 with a pumpkin toss of 3,245.58 feet.

 Despite his success, he is unsure of whether or not he will be returning for the competition’s revival. “Yet to be determined,” says Jefferson. “But I’m glad to see it coming back.”

Jefferson, a mechanic, initially got involved with Punkin Chunkin at the first event in 2001, based on a phone call from a friend. He credits much of his success to hard work, but that a largely empty field helped as well. “Just kept doing what needed to be done,” he says. “I don’t particularly want to say it, but a lack of competition as well.”

Both Kite and Jefferson are happy to see Punkin Chunkin back in Bridgeville, which Kite calls “the absolute capital of Punkin Chunkin competitions,” after the event’s flirtation with relocating to Dover Downs over the last two years. “It supports local charities,” says Jefferson. “It’s great that it’s back in Sussex County where it started.”

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