Competitors take pumpkin smashing to the extreme

By Beau Ebenezer

October 19, 2013 Updated Oct 19, 2013 at 9:56 PM CDT

TREMONT Ill -- Smashing pumpkins is typically frowned upon during the fall season.

But when the Punkin' Chuckin' annual competition comes around each year, the gooey left-over mess becomes a mere work of art.

"There was a contest in Lewes Delaware," said event volunteer, Susan Pyles. "They were the ones who started it 28 years ago. Then, we decided that this would be perfect for our area because there wasn't a contest anywhere. We started doing this, and it's been great fun."

Dozens of pumpkins were either launched by a catapult, shot from a cannon, or sprung into the air Saturday in the 17th annual competition.

For one Hopedale "chucker", a small conversation about the pumpkin phenomena gained him and his friends world-wide recognition.

"We heard about the contest and what the rules were," said Rod Litwiller. "We thought it sounded like the dumbest thing we had ever heard of. But somebody asked how would we do it? This guy would do it different than that guy, and pretty soon, we decided to build one."

Litwiller helped create the Aludium Q-36 Pumpkin Modulator in 1996.

Since then, his team has been recognized as the Guinness Book World Record holder for the Pumpkin Chuck at a distance of 4,860 feet.

They have appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and competed across the country.

Now their machine serves as a model for young "punkin' chuckers" looking to come close to that record.

"It's really cool just to see what other people have and to learn from them," said Tremont High School senior, Jonathan Baurer. "They are the best in the world. That is really cool."

20 teams total entered this year's event all aiming to bring home the first place trophy.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Morton Tourism Association.