Punkin' chunkin' is back at Finley's pumpkin patch


September 15, 2021

This photo from last year's activities at Finley's pumpkin patch shows passengers on the pumpkin train scrambling for a seat. The train will be back this year as part of the activities at the pumpkin patch on the weekend of October 2-3.

I visited recently with Ken Finley out at his garden and pumpkin patch adjacent to the Chinook Water Treatment Plant just off Cleveland Road on the south edge of town. I'd walked through the pumpkin patch during the growing season and was impressed with some of the 'lunkers' I could see down in the vines. But an orange wooden contraption had been erected at the south end of the patch and I was curious to learn what it was. Ken was happy to talk about this most recent addition to his patch.

He explained the weird looking structure is a 'punkin' chunkin' machine. To be precise, per Wikipedia, punkin' chunkin': "is the sport of hurling or 'chucking' a pumpkin solely by mechanical means for distance. The devices used include slingshots, catapults, centrifugals, trebuchets, and pneumatic cannons." Ken's machine is basically a large slingshot made of two by fours with a sling manufactured for launching water balloons (he didn't think it was a good idea to be tossing large pumpkins in to the air around people picking pumpkins. He'll be using homegrown mini-pumpkins). This is the fourth year for Ken's punkin' chunkin' machine. He didn't have it working for last year's pumpkin season.

Ken is hopeful the new addition will attract more people to come to the pumpkin patch. Again this year all the proceeds from selling his pumpkins and chunkin' punkins will go to the library in Chinook. Val Frank, the Director of the Blaine County Library, said last year Ken's event raised $1600+ to support existing and add some new programs for kids and older youth. Val said, "I've known Ken since I started with the library. He worked in county maintenance and always supported the library. When he posed the idea of giving the money raised from pumpkin sales to the library I figured an extra two or three hundred dollars for program support might happen. I was very surprised when more than 200 people showed up and the event raised such a large sum of money."

Some other popular parts of last year's program will be back. Most importantly, Ken Finley has lots of pumpkins and gourds for carving and decorating. The younger set always seems to enjoy a ride on the pumpkin train and it will be at the patch again. The library will give away trick or treat candy and hold drawings for some door prizes. Ken made a point to say, "There'll be punkin' chunkin' opportunities for all ages. Big kids (any age) can use the big slingshot. I'll have a smaller version for smaller kids and the little guys can just pick up pumpkins and throw them." He plans to have targets in the field where he has the slingshot. Each person will have three pumpkins to shoot during a turn. Donations for the pumpkin toss will go to the library.

Ken Finley poses with his "punkin' chunkin' machine" at his pumpkin patch south of Chinook. He's brought the machine back this year and will be offering "three tosses per turn" for people interested in trying their pumpkin tossing skills. The patch will be open Saturday and Sunday (October 2-3). All proceeds from pumpkin and punkin' chunkin' sales will go to support youth programming at the Blaine County Library in Chinook.

For those readers who have been wondering just how far could one could chunk a punkin', here's the answer. As best I can determine, the current world record was set in Utah by a pneumatic cannon dubbed "Big 10 Inch." It shot a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet back in 2011. Not surprisingly, there are punkin' chunkin' clubs, associations of clubs, regional tournaments and even a world championship event.

One important side note was shared by Ken Finley. "Next year," he said, "the entire garden plot will be pumpkins." That's about two acres of pumpkins! He explained he was having more difficulty bending down to harvest the vegetables and noted, "The great thing about pumpkins is the customers choose the ones they want and pack them out themselves."

The upcoming pumpkin events will be the same weekend as the Sugarbeet Festival and the Chinook Rod and Gun Club's annual gun show. The pumpkin patch will be open Saturday (October 2) from 10a-5p and Sunday (October 3) will open after lunch and operate until about 5pm. A visit to the pumpkin patch will be a great way to chose some pumpkins and do some punkin' chunkin' while supporting your local library.


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