Janice Barela operating her pumpkin-launching machine named "Ladybug."
Janice Barela launches a punkin from her chunker "Ladybug." (Courtesy Jim Goodman)

The annual Estancia Punkin Chunkin' event is back on October 14, featuring pumpkin-launching machines and scholarship fundraising by the Estancia Rotary.

For more than two decades, Punkin Chunkin’ was an annual staple on the Estancia festival calendar.

But it has been hit or miss the last couple of years as virus mandates wiped out one season and last year the rains drowned another.

With clears skies forecast for Oct. 14, however, those punkins will be a chunkin’ on schedule just as the rare annular eclipse fades away.

As many as seven gizmos designed to hurl pumpkins into the nether will be on hand, said Johnny Perea, president of the Estancia Rotary.

Usually, they are 6-inch, 8-inch and 10-inch, compressed air-powered behemoths that essentially punch out the pumpkin, sending it flying as much as 3,000 feet, he said. For reference, that equates to about 10 football fields end-to-end.

And quite frequently, there is so much pressure that the pumpkin explodes rather than soaring gracefully into the skies.

“We call that punkin pie,” Perea said with a chuckle. “They just splatter.”

Occasionally, a medieval trebuchet – used in breaking city walls during a siege — will appear, using leverage to gain enough momentum to get the pumpkin aloft.

Pumpkin patch from Marius Ciocirlan on Unsplash.

“But the draw is the chunkers,” he said.

Usually the event will go through several 100 pumpkins – donated by John and Diane Aday – and it costs $5 for each one launched.

The public can even get in on the chunkin fun.

“You can pay and get a punkin, you can choose,” Perea said. “Our launchers are really good about being interactive with the crowd. Basically, you put your punkin in there and release the valve and shoot it. Some of them have a manual valve so it’s a matter of physically pulling the valve and releasing the air through the chunker and pushing the punkin out.”

And while it is all in good fun as the chunkin is the highlight of day, it also includes a parade along Main Street beginning at 10:30 a.m., followed by the announcement of the Chunkin Prince and Princess at 1 p.m., with the main event officially starting at 1:30 p.m., although practice chunking begins as early as 12:30, he said.

In between will be a pie-eating contest at 3 p.m., followed by final results and awards at 4 p.m. Throughout the day, food and merchandise vendors will be on hand.

The Rotary uses it as a fund-raising event, using the money raised to provide as many as five $1,000 scholarships for Estancia High School seniors.

27th annual Punkin Chunkin’ Estancia
Oct. 14th 10:30 a.m. parade
1:00 p.m. announcement of Chunkin’ prince and princess
1:30 p.m. official Punkin launching
3:00 p.m. pie eating contest

More info: https://www.facebook.com/EstanciaRotaryPunkinChunkin/

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