Longtime Delaware tradition Punkin Chunkin moves to Illinois

2013 Punkin Chunkin (Chuck Snyder for WHYY)

2013 Punkin Chunkin (Chuck Snyder for WHYY)

The pumpkin-launching air cannons and catapults have pulled out of Delaware for good.

The annual competition Punkin Chunkin is leaving the First State for Illinois after more than 30 years, organizers said Tuesday.

Thousands of pumpkin enthusiasts gathered at a farm in southern Delaware each year to watch the squash fly, some close to a mile away. It was a post-Halloween tradition that made good use of rotting pumpkins and gave a boost to the Sussex County economy. For several years, the event was broadcast on cable TV’s Discovery Channel, introducing a national audience to the Delaware tradition.

A woman was critically injured when an air cannon exploded in 2016, which made the landowner who hosted the event hesitant to continue. Without a deal with a large landowner to hold the event, Punkin Chunkin was put on hiatus in 2017.

Since then, organizers have tried to find another host in Delaware or somewhere else nearby on the Delmarva Peninsula. That search was unsuccessful. The group announced Tuesday a deal to move the event 800 miles west to the decommissioned Chanute Air Force Base near Rantoul, Illinois. The base was closed down in 1993.

The group plans its first Punkin Chunkin event in Illinois on Nov. 1, 2, and 3.

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

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.