Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Vermont's Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival - Where Medieval Engineering Meets Squash

by Deb Wojcicki / New England Fall Events

A late September treat for us, New England Fall Events enjoyed the 7th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival in Stowe, Vermont.

This one-day, family-friendly festival provided an exciting afternoon of fun featuring food and drink, the People's Choice Chili Cook-off, children's activities, music, and of course, the all-important pumpkin chuckin'!

The premise of this event centers around the engineering challenge of designing trebuchets of all size and types to hurl pumpkins across a field to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd. Twenty-six teams entered the competition this year in four categories: Heavyweight, Middleweight Open, Middleweight Junior and Lightweight.  Teams consisted of friends, family, and even Boy Scout troops.

For the uninitiated, trebuchets are a type of gravity-driven catapult employing a counter-weight system to sling projectiles towards some far-off target. Imagine a line of medieval-looking siege-machines set up in a field preparing to do battle...except instead of hurling rocks at castles, here they were competing with each other for the distinction of flinging pumpkins the farthest.

The larger the machine, the larger the pumpkin it can accommodate. As the trebuchets launched away, the projectile pumpkins rolled, bounced and splattered all over the field with officials chasing after the fruit to measure and record the distance flown.

Some spectators in attendance were there to appreciate the mechanical engineering involved; others were transfixed by the competition itself - either way, these machines were truly magnificent to watch.

When not mesmerized by flying pumpkins, children were entertained by giant board games, blocks and games of throwing skill. The bands played on and off during the event, which ran from 11:00am to 4:00pm. The chili cook-off judging began at 12:15pm and for a mere $5, festival attendees could taste the various chili offerings and vote for their favorite blend. Four teams entered the chili cook-off so there was plenty of variety and adult beverages could be purchased to round out the lunch.

The pumpkin chuckin' action began at 12:30pm and throughout the afternoon. The 8th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival is scheduled for Sunday, September 25, 2016 and it's a fine afternoon, we're sure, for trebuchets and chili.

Tips for Planning Your Trip to the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival:

Tickets are $5 at the door for adults and children 5 and older; younger kids get in for free.

Cash is king for food and drink at this festival.

Bring lawn chairs, a blanket, umbrellas, bug spray, sunscreen or anything else you'll need to be comfortable while you are watching the competition; there are no grandstands or picnic tables, but you may sit on the grass if you wish.

Dogs and outside food & beverages are not allowed.

There are a few tents for the food and such, but no indoor space to speak of. The event runs rain or shine.

Restroom facilities consist of porta-potties, but no lines were observed so there seemed to be plenty.

Trebuchet mishaps are rare, but they do occur. If you are watching from behind the trebuchet line, you may be asked to move while the machine in front of you is firing. Be prepared for a short wait between launches as the competition waits until the spectators are safely dispersed.

There are three rounds of competition, so get there when you can - it goes all afternoon.

Ample free parking is provided in a field adjacent to the event.

Traffic going in to the event was fairly smooth and parking easy to find; be patient when you leave as people tended to leave en masse at the end of each round of competition.

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