Delaware Punkin Chunkin fight gets political

 (Chuck Snyder/for NewsWorks)

(Chuck Snyder/for NewsWorks)

“It’s a sad day,” said Senator Brian Pettyjohn after a committee defeated a measure designed to keep Punkin Chunkin in Delaware.

The Senate Executive Committee voted not to release the Punkin Chunkin bill. Senate Bill 14 would have put a million dollar cap on non-economic damages awarded for personal injury or wrongful death at special events.

Pettyjohn, a Georgetown Republican, sponsored the bill designed to protect the Punkin Chunkin organizers and the property owner where the massive event is held. Punkin Chunkin was cancelled in 2014 while organizers tried to move from their traditional site in Bridgeville to Dover International Speedway’s Woodlands property, also home to the Firefly Music Festival.

The move away from Bridgeville happened after a volunteer was injured at the 2013 event and sued the landowner who hosted the event. That created fears that other potential landowners could face significant costs if sued in the future.

“I’m disappointed the Executive Committee didn’t see fit to release this bill, and I’m even more disappointed it failed on a party line vote,” Pettyjohn said. All four Democrats on the committee voted against releasing the bil.

“We’re talking about an event that had a $15,000,000 economic impact on Delaware,” Pettyjohn said, also noting Punkin Chunkin’s $100,000 donation to Delaware charities. “This is an organization that has done nothing but good for Delaware and we’re kicking them out of the state.”

Punkin Chunkin is still scheduled to be held on the festival grounds at Dover International Speedway this October, but it’s not clear what the event’s future will be after this year.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal