Punkin Chunkin: Behind the World Championship of Pumpkin Hurling

It's not unusual to enjoy a plentiful helping of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. But some people gather together each fall to enjoy pumpkins in another way: by flinging them as far as possible.

The contest, known as the World Championship Punkin Chunkin event, has become a huge draw in Bridgeville, Del., bringing thousands of spectators to see who can launch a pumpkin the farthest.

Anybody from around the country can apply to enter the event and build a machine to launch pumpkins. These medieval-looking devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes, many of them built in backyards or garages. The machines can employ air cannons for launching, trebuchets for flinging and a variety of torsion machines that propel pumpkins via the power of twisted cables — basically, anything that doesn't involved gunpowder, said Grant Imahara, co-host of a Science Channel special on the event, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving (Nov. 28).

The live event took place on Nov. 1–3, but you'll have to watch the broadcast to see the winning hurl.

Imahara, along with co-hosts Kari Byron and Tory Belleci, visited LiveScience to talk about the event. The three also co-host the Discovery Channel show "Mythbusters." [What is Punkin Chunkin? - Exclusive 'Mythbusters' Interview]

Some of the devices used to launch pumpkins in the Science Channel special "Punkin Chunkin." (Image credit: Discovery Channel / Science Channel)

Perhaps not surprisingly, mishaps do occur during the event. The giant machines have misfired, for example, sending pumpkins thousands of feet straight up into the air. In one case, an errant "punkin" nearly hit Imahara, he said. "My producer had to jump on me to prevent me from getting hit," Imahara told LiveScience.

"It's really dangerous," Belleci said. "You're standing next to these machines, and there's so much tension — they have springs, they have ropes … and sometimes these things break." Last year, Belleci was standing next to one such machine when the arm snapped, and it "splintered all over the place," he said of the pumpkin launcher. But the host wasn't injured.

This year's contestants set a number of world records, and launched one pumpkin nearly a mile, Byron said.

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Douglas Main
Douglas Main loves the weird and wonderful world of science, digging into amazing Planet Earth discoveries and wacky animal findings (from marsupials mating themselves to death to zombie worms to tear-drinking butterflies) for Live Science. Follow Doug on Google+.