Punkin Chunkin requires world-class decision-making
Punkin Chunkin appears to be on track this year, but only after organizers pulled off a last-minute deal to upgrade event insurance policies only hours before they were to begin preparing the field for the flight of the gourds, set Friday to Sunday, Nov. 2-4.
Now in its 27th year, World Championship Punkin Chunkin is likely the biggest annual event in Sussex County. It has come a long way from its beginnings, when a handful of inventive guys in Lewes dreamed up ways to get rid of leftover pumpkins. Their best device tossed a pumpkin 126 feet.
This year’s event has drawn more than 100 teams, and 120,000 visitors are expected to show up for an international event that will be featured as a Thanksgiving special on the Discovery and Science television channels.
The record these teams will try to beat is now 4,483 feet.
With pumpkins flung with enough force to fly most of a mile, it’s little short of a miracle that serious accidents have not been more frequent over the past quarter century. Last year, however, the chunk was marred by serious injury to a volunteer.
Significantly increasing the event’s liability coverage is a positive step. Still, organizers say the insurance covers only spectators; no insurance could be found to cover people who participate in the event.
It’s troubling that insurance issues came within hours of canceling the chunk – and that everyone involved is still not covered.
Participating in Punkin Chunkin requires a serious investment, and teams have to make travel plans well in advance. Punkin Chunkin also requires an army of volunteers who invest tireless hours organizing, setting up, hosting and cleaning up this event.
Punkin Chunkin has grown too large for last-minute insurance glitches or fencing problems, which arose last year. Organizers should commit to solving outstanding issues by June 1 or announcing the problems publicly so both teams and spectators can decide for themselves whether to wait for a last-minute resolution.
Punkin Chunkin is literally a world-championship event that gives the local economy a significant boost. Organizers must give safety and financial issues world-class attention to ensure the event survives well into the future.