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Smashing Pumpkins the Vermont Way 

Published October 5, 2009 at 3:49 p.m.

OK, admit it — you've always wanted to smash a squash, gouge a gourd, zing a zucchini.

Well, this past Sunday in Cambridge, in a field behind Boyden Farms, there was all that and more. The farm was home to what promises to be an annual event: The Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival.

I won't bore you with the details of how this fest came to be, and I don't really care all that much. I'm sure as heck glad it happened.

Watching five pound pumpkins hurled more than a hundred feet only to splatter into a mix of rind and guts is a glory to behold (see carnage pic below).

About a dozen teams were able to construct a trebuchet for the competition — which was literally pulled together in a month.

The winning team, a group of three guys from Central Vermont, ended up winning in the heavyweight division by hurling a pumpkin nearly 140 feet.

They later tossed cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, pineapples and more for fun and let as many kids as wanted help load the trebuchet and take turns pulling the release cord.

Local inventor JJ Spanier brought along the largest trebuchet of the day and let fly one pumpkin more than 200 feet (see first and second pics to the right). With 700 pounds of counterweight, Spanier said the optimum gourd weight was five pounds, which surprised me. I would have thought something a bit heavier could be hurled.

To prove it, he tried to hurl a 20-plus pound pumpkin (see third pic). A smashing success, it wasn't. Well, OK, it did smash with an earth-pounding thud, but in terms of distance it only traveled about 30 feet.

To ensure maximum enjoyment of the afternoon's festivities, which included watching pumpkins, gourds, pineapples, cauliflower, apples, and lettuce go flying through the air after being launched by Medieval-inspired Trebuchets, I had to bring along four boys ages 11-13 (my two sons and two of their friends).

Organizers set up a powerful slingshot for kids to launch tomatoes, potatoes and corn, and after the competition, kids lined up for the chance to yell "Fire in the hole!" and launch a rotten veggie.

But, the day was not solely designed for pre-teen boys — or guys, in general.

The crowd spanned gender and every imaginable age group. Cub scouts, high school students and grown-ups entered the competition.

Organizer Dave Jordan said they learned a few things from this year's event and hope to come back next year with one that's even better.

One couple I talked with had some great ideas, including adding a contest for accuracy. You know, set up some targets in the field and aim at them. I could see a castle wall, a la Monty Python (a taunting Frenchman farting in our general direction perhaps), or even better a small "army" of scarecrows in Medieval garb.

Even the guys with the winning heavyweight trebuchet ("The Thing" - see fourth pic on right) said it would be fun to try and aim at something.

The festival also had music and some food, and for an extra fee you could enter a pretty challenging and fun corn maze. That's all well and good and I'm sure the music and food were great (and three of the kids who I brought had fun in the maze), but honestly I wouldn't know. I had too much fun just watching pumpkin after pumpkin launch, followed by a scramble of kids who eagerly picked over the carnage, hauling it back — triumphant.

And, I know some of you are thinking: What a waste, especially when others are doing without.

To which I say: I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think everyone should have a trebuchet at their disposal.

The event received some a decent media splash. Here are links:



Burlington Free Press

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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