RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — Thousands came together today in Rantoul for an event never seen in Rantoul.
The World Championships for Punkin Chunkin opened Saturday morning for the first time in Central Illinois. It happened at the Chanute Air Force Base. Dozens of machines were lined up to see who can chuck a pumpkin the furthest.
“It’s just a great, fun thing that you gotta enjoy one time,” says Paul Moody, who drove six and a half hours from Tennessee.
The competition found itself in legal trouble when they were sued after an incident with a machine in 2016. The lawsuit was dropped in early 2019, but the group still needed to find a new home. That is when the Village of Rantoul stepped in.
There were people from all over visiting. They watched in awe, and even cheered, while watching the festivities. They stood out in the cold and mud to watch one of the biggest events in the Village’s history. Rantoul was selected as the host in May.
The event welcomes all forms of ways to shoot a pumpkin. Many use the classic trebuchet or a powerful air cannon. But the Smokin Lamas team does things the old-fashioned way.
“We’re human-powered centripetal,” says team member Andrea Reever. “We have a bicyclist and he pedals for two minutes. As soon as that two minutes is done, we release a trigger and hopefully the pumpkin flies.”
Punkin Chunkin started in 1986 on a farm in Delaware. The move brought some old friends with it. Moody and his family have been going since 2002.
“As soon as we found out about it, it was like, ‘We gotta go. This is going to be the first year back in a few years and they’re doing it outside of the state of Delaware,”‘ says Moody. “It was just a natural, “We gotta come.”
The Chunkin in the past has drawn in about 20,000 people in a year. There were not quite as many in 2019. But Punkin Chunkin’s new home has already made an impact on the people participating. Reever says she is excited to see it grow there.
“Everybody in this area has been so kind,” says Reever. “It’s like the people we’ve met from the Rantoul-Champaign area, they’re great. They’re friendly and we feel welcome here.”
Event organizers say they are currently searching for ways to give back to Central Illinois. Since they are a non-profit, they have previously given $1 million in donations and scholarships.
The Chunkin winner was “Chunk Norris.” That machine hurled a pumpkin 4,091 feet.