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Best Bets for Pumpkin Chunkin' in the Old Dominion

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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 1:00 am | Updated: 11:48 am, Wed Dec 5, 2012.

The trick-or-treaters have come and gone, and now it’s time to dispose of the forlorn and toothless pumpkin filled with candle wax that’s still sitting on your front porch. You could just bag it and throw it in the dumpster, but that’s not much fun. Pack up Jack and head to one of these farms or events for the hottest fall sport around next to football: pumpkin chunkin’.

Even though the term "pumpkin chunkin" is used to refer to annual pumpkin smashing events, it’s actually an official sport where teams or individuals build complex machinery to propel their pumpkins as far as possible.

Believe it or not, there’s even a World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association. Since 1986, teams mostly comprised of engineering experts have created innovative devices from pneumatic air cannons to slingshots and catapults to see who can hurl their pumpkin the farthest. The annual contest is held in Delaware, and the nonprofit WCPCA donates the event proceeds to youth-oriented charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as well as to VA-backed veteran programs, food banks and Meals on Wheels.

Virginia boasts a champion chunker, Ray Tolson of Culpeper, who won last year’s competition with his air cannon, Second Amendment Too. Tolson, a senior national service engineer for Kaeser Compressors, had a winning shot of 4,329 feet (almost a mile). If you want to see some serious chunkin’ in person, this year’s event is the first weekend in November or you can catch live coverage on the Science Channel.

Located in Northern Virginia’s Loudoun County, Great Country Farms turns chunkin’ and smashin’ into an outdoor adventure: drop Jack from the Zip Wire Sploosh or the 60-foot silo or add your orb to the upside-down "fireworks display" where a mound of pumpkins is dropped from a lift for some serious splatter. The farm also has a corn maze, cow train rides, swings and slides for other playful pursuits (Nov. 3 and 4).

If you can’t make the great smash, Great Country Farms also has a fall festival throughout October at which you can pick your own pumpkin, watch the P-Rex dinosaur devour some of the pumpkin field rejects and catch a pig race or two.

Pop your Smashing Pumpkins CD into the player and head to Harrisonburg where Back Home on the Farm brings in a fire truck and raises the ladder for a daring pumpkin drop, and also has a variety of tools on hand that you can use to devise your own method of destruction.

Enjoy a hayride or the old-fashioned carousel, play a round of barnyard golf and visit with the native Shenandoah Valley animals on this 240-acre farm. Don’t have a jack-o’-lantern to bring along? The farm will let you pick a leftover pumpkin from its patch so you can still have a smashing good time (Nov. 3 and 4).

Smashin’ and chunkin’ events are BYOP (bring your own pumpkin), but most of the farms also have pumpkins for sale or picking. And, if you really want to saturate your fall season with pumpkin events, from pickin’ to punkin’, check the source of all things orange at http://thepumpkindirectory.com.

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