Despite Hurricane Sandy's best efforts to derail the 27th Annual World Champion Punkin Chunkin Competition, the event will go on this weekend. However, instead of the usual three-day extravaganza, the wind and rain did force organizers to scale back to a two-day weekend.
Frank Shade, the current director of media and promotions and a long-time behind-the-scenes official, said people shouldn't let the storm keep them away.
"The farm is on a high piece of land and it drains quickly," Shade said. "We've got people out here repairing wind damage to the fence and retrieving the portable toilets that were blown around."
The property's condition was enough to call off Friday's chunking, though.
"The chunking portion of the event will not be held on Friday but vendors will be there and people are welcome to come down to take advantage of that," Shade said. "However, tailgating will not be open at that time either."
Normal operations will resume Saturday for two hardcore days of chunking.
"There is absolutely no doubt that the competition will go on," Shade said. "Short of that storm circling back and hitting us again."
Last year's event saw approximately 100,000 fans over the course of three days, who come from near and far to experience the event that celebrates science, ingenuity, friendly competition, and, of course, all things pumpkin.
This year's event features 115 teams from all over the country, vying for one of the coveted trophies given out. There is no prize money, though. All the money raised goes to charity.
Jake Burton, of team Young Glory, has been chunkin for 15 years says that the event grows every year but charity has always been a focus for the organization. And, like the event, Burton has grown with it. Once a participant, he now also serves as a trustee.
"Punkin Chunkin may be more commercial than ever before but we can also give out more money than ever before, too," Burton said. "I get to work with the scholarship committee and last year we gave away $35,000 in scholarships as well as all kinds of money to organizations like St. Jude's."
At last year's event, Chunkin Under Da Influence's Laura Wallace said that she's seen the event get better and better over the course of her nine years participating. This year, the team celebrates 10 years as a team.
"As a woman, it's so much fun to surprise the guys," Wallace said. "They don't think you can do it. But, when you come in third place by chunkin 3,578 feet, they stop talking so loud. That's the best part."
Newcomers may find their eyes glued skyward, listening for the big booms of the air cannons and watching for the puffs of smoke and the little orange dots that will eventually land hundreds, sometimes thousands, of feet away. However, on the spectator side of the fence, expect to see fanatics dressed up in an array of costumes, from pumpkin tributes to the unexplained and seemingly unrelated.
Page 2 of 2 - Mike Sanders, of Rehoboth Beach, attended last year, as he does every year. He said that a big draw is the people.
"I love to see the people who walk around with pumpkins on their heads," Sanders said. "It's crazy."
Aside from the people watching and the chunking competition, Saturday will also feature a chili cookoff and Sunday will crown several age groups of the 2012 Miss Punkin Chunkin. More information about both events can be found on the official event website, www.punkinchunkin.com.
Last year, the event was sponsored by the Discovery Channel, who was also there taping the event. Currently, Discovery affiliate, the Science Channel, is airing short 30-minute documentaries on two Punkin Chunkin teams: American Chunkers and Pumpkin Hammer. However, people unable to attend this year's event will have the opportunity to see what they missed Thanksgiving Day when the Science Channel airs the footage captured from this weekend.
Punkin Chunkin takes place at Royal Farms, located at 18657 Sussex Highway, in Bridgeville, this Saturday and Sunday. Delaware DOT signs will be posted for motorists approaching the area. Tickets are $10 per person, per day. For more information, visit the event's official website.