Without main sponsorship, 2017 Chunk may be the last

BRIDGEVILLE – The 32nd annual Punkin Chunkin scheduled for Nov. 3-5 might be the last, organizers fear.

With the loss of the main sponsor, Science Channel, which contributed 25-percent of the donations needed to host this unique event, the Punkin Chunkin Championship Association is struggling.

“The chunk will go on this year,” said Frank Payton, World Punkin Chunkin Championship Association president. “The volunteers are working hard to make sure that this tradition continues, but without an outpouring of support from sponsors, this could be the event’s last year.”

“The group has an emergency fund,” Payton added.

However, due to increased costs, this fund may only be good for one year. This leaves the group scrambling to figure out a way to save Punkin Chunkin and continue hosting this one-of-a-kind science event.

“In life, there are uncertainties in everything we do. Punkin Chunkin is not an exception. 2013 or even last year could have been the last year. We know that the event will happen again in 2017, but without an outpouring of worldwide community financial support, we are in trouble,” Payton said.

The organization had a three-year plan to rebuild their event into a family-friendly destination promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics). Without the necessary operation funds, they have had to re-focus on just trying to survive.

In efforts to raise funds for this year, the organization revamped their sponsorship pricing to be more appealing.

“We learned our lesson from being dependent on a single entity for the majority of our funding. As much as we appreciated the relationship, we ended up suffering in the long run,” said David Quigley, vice president of WCPCA.

New sponsorship packages are accessible on the Punkin Chunkin website at www.punkinchunkin.com.

In February of this year, the WCPCA announced the event would be held at the Wheatley Farm property near Bridgeville, but without main sponsorship of Science Channel, which had showcased the homegrown Sussex County event for a number of years, including prime-time specials at Thanksgiving time.

On the final day of the 2016 event, one of the air cannons malfunctioned and a 39-year-old female employee for a company filming the event was critically injured when she was struck in the face and head by metal debris from that explosion.

The Science Channel subsequently decided not to air the three-hour post-Thanksgiving prime-time special out of respect for the injured woman and her family.

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.

Efforts to stage the event on Dover International Speedway property in 2014-15 never worked out. With liability and insurance issues ironed out, Punkin Chunkin returned to the Bridgeville site in 2016.

Planted in 1986 as a friendly competition to see who could wing a pumpkin the furthest, Punkin Chunkin evolved into an international spectacle, drawing during its heyday tens of thousands of spectators annually and more than 100 gourd-launching competitors with various contraptions from across the United States and even beyond.

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