Punkin Chuckin In Olathe

Oct 27, 2014

The Olathe Volunteer Fire Department hosted its 12th annual Punkin Chunkin Festival over the weekend.

KVNF’s Laura Palmisano was there, and bring us this report. 

The festival is a fundraiser for the fire department.  

"Pumpkins are fun because they smash and exploded," Daniel Ortega says.

It includes two pumpkin launching competitions: accuracy and distance.   

"We break...machines up into mechanical which is trebuchets or catapults and into air canons," Olathe Fire Chief Kyle St. Jean says. 

St. Jean says the fire department enters its air canon into the contest. 

"The air canons work off of compressed air," he says. "We have industrial air compressors that supply what’s usually a propane tank. We build those anywhere from 20 to 100 psi depending on how hard the pumpkins are to launch."

Daniel Ortega, with reenactment group Thunder Mountain Colorado Living History, is operating a trebuchet. 

"The trebuchet was invented around 1,000 B.C. by the Chinese," Ortega says.  "It made its way across Europe. They’ve been used all over. They were usually built onsite at a siege.”

He says trebuchets were made onsite because it wasn’t easy to transport them.

Ortega says the machine works on a counterweight system. 

"Your throwing arm is actually up at the very top," he says. "Then on the bottom of your throwing arm you have your counterweight. As the counterweight falls the sling actually comes up [and] it lets loose as it comes around like an old-fashioned slingshot." 

Ortega calls the trebuchet a simple weapon. 

"A lot of things can change how it goes," he says. "You can make almost straight shots or can lob shots over walls." 

Ortega says he likes bringing the wooden device to events like Punkin Chuckin so people can see it in action.

"Anytime you get to throw something it’s always a good time," he says. "We usually throw bowling balls the rest of the year, but pumpkins are fun because they smash and exploded."