Facing lawsuit, organizers cancel 2017 Punkin Chunkin

BRIDGEVILLE – Facing a pending lawsuit, Punkin Chunkin 2017 has been cancelled, leaving the future of the homegrown Sussex County spectacle in question.

The organizing World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association announced the cancellation Wednesday.

Last week, the Associated Press reported the woman who was critically injured when an air cannon malfunctioned and exploded during the last day of the 2016 Punkin Chunkin event in Bridgeville, has filed a federal lawsuit. The suit names event organizers and participants, state officials and Discovery Communications as defendants, according to the Associated Press report.

Organizers have announced cancellation of Punkin Chunkin 2017.

The following cancellation notification was posted on the Punkin Chunkin website:

“Our non-profit, the World Punkin Chunkin Association, a 100-percent volunteer based group, has recently come under litigation regarding the incident where Ms. Suzanne Dakessian, a Sharp Entertainment’s employee, was involved in an unfortunate accident at our 2016 event. The pending lawsuit lists our non-profit and its officers as defendants.”

“The landowners who graciously donate the use of their property each year for our non-profit endeavors are also listed as defendants. They are reluctant to host our 2017 event in light of the lawsuit.”

“With less than 74 days until our event, we are left with no options. It is with our deepest regrets that we announce that 2017 Punkin Chunkin is canceled and with it, the economic impact that Delaware receives, the funds that we generate to help fund other non-profits and the scholarships for deserving youth. Refunds will be issued within the week,” the statement reads.

“It is unfortunate that Suzanne Dakessian was injured, and we continue to extend our best wishes to her, her family and her loved ones. We have no further comment at this time,” the Punkin Chunkin statement concluded.

Punkin Chunkin was on shaky financial ground prior to word of the lawsuit.

Earlier this month, World Punkin Chunkin Championship Association president Frank Payton announced that the 32nd annual Punkin Chunkin set for this Nov. 3-5 at the Wheatley Farm property near Bridgeville might be the last if main sponsorship is not secured.

Punkin Chunkin suffered a major financial blow earlier this year when its primary sponsor, Science Channel, notified organizers it would not return this year. Science Channel had contributed 25-percent of the donations needed to host the gourd-hurling event.

Punkin Chunkin dates to 1986, initially hatched as a friendly competition among friends. The event evolved into a worldwide event, attracting more than 100 machines and tens of thousands of spectators annually during its heyday.

Punkin Chunkin was not held in 2014 or 2015 amid liability/insurance hurdles stemming from a 2013 lawsuit filed on behalf of a volunteer spotter who was critically injured in an ATV mishap during the 2011 event.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.