Delaware’s Punkin Chunkin cancelled again

 (Chuck Snyder/for NewsWorks)

(Chuck Snyder/for NewsWorks)

The annual event where competitors hurl pumpkins has been cancelled yet again. 

Organizers made the announcement Thursday morning on the event’s Facebook page. 

The post read, “Despite the best efforts of our board throughout an exhaustive, nation-wide search, we have been unable to locate a willing insurer to adequately protect our host venue, our organization, our fans and our spectators.”

The 2015 World Championship Punkin Chunkin event was scheduled to take place on Nov. 7 and 8 at Dover International Speedway.

“We were working concurrently to get ready for everything, and we knew that behind the scenes they were also trying very hard to contact different providers,” said Gary Camp, the racetrack’s senior director of communications. “I think just as of yesterday morning, they realized their event wouldn’t be insured.” 

Customers who purchased tickets to attend this year’s event, they said, will see a 100 percent refund on their credit cards within 7-14 business days. Any questions can be directed to 800-441-7223.

Future in question

This is the second year in a row the gourd-slinging contest hasn’t happened. Trouble seemed to set in after the chunk moved from Sussex County to Kent County.

Since its inception in 1986, Punkin Chunkin had been held on a Bridgeville farm until a volunteer was hurt at the 2013 event. The subsequent lawsuit, and the threat of future lawsuits, scared the farmer, forcing chunk organizers to find a new venue.

Dover International Speedway ended up being selected, but the last-minute change and logistical problems prevented pumpkins from flying at the racetrack last year.

Worried about Punkin Chunkin’s future in Delaware, state Senator Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, sponsored legislation to cap personal injury and wrongful death damages at $1 million for special events. Introduced earlier this year, the measure never made it out of committee.

“I was fearful that this might happen with no liability cap,” Pettyjohn said. “Because this legislation didn’t get out, this event has been cancelled once again.”

Renewing his push, Pettyjohn said he will remind state lawmakers of Punkin Chunkin’s economic impact on the state. Citing Delaware’s Economic Development Office, Pettyjohn said Punkin Chunkin generated more than $15 million each year for the state, awarded more than $100,000 in grants to charities and $50,000 in scholarships to Delaware students.

Provided organizers can find an insurer, Camp said Dover International Speedway is ready and willing to host an event next year. “We’re just kind of in a holding pattern to see how it all shakes out. I know they are also huddling and trying to figure out how to move forward.”

Thanking their supporters “through this difficult time,” organizers said they’re committed to continuing the pumpkin-tossing tradition and “are actively seeking alternatives as we move forward.”

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