The Hippo


Jun 2, 2020








Extreme Chunkin

Where: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1122 Route 106, Loudon).
When: Saturday, Oct. 14, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $10 and $15 at the gate; kids 10 and under free.

Tossing pumpkins
NH Motor Speedway hosts Extreme Chunkin

By Ethan Hogan

 Trebuchets, catapults, torsion machines and air cannons will launch pumpkins thousands of feet before they collide with the ground at the third annual Extreme Chunkin event at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Three categories of pumpkin throwing machines compete on Saturday and Sunday to see which designs prove the most efficient: catapults and trebuchets, air cannons and torsion machines.
Event organizer George Hamilton said catapults and trebuchets use counterweights to hurl the 10-pound pumpkins across the field. Torsion machines use pressure built up from a wound rope, and air cannons use pressurized air to launch the pumpkins. The sport of “punkin chunkin” has its world championships in Delaware, but Hamilton said record holders in each category are hobbyists from New England. 
“We wanted to bring our activity to our fans in New England so they could see the creations that the people have built right here,” said Hamilton.
Steve Seigars will bring his famous Yankee Siege trebuchet to the event and will be showcasing the power of the 60,000-pound medieval-style machine between the three competitions. Seigars built the machine while running a farm stand in Greenfield, New Hampshire, because he wanted to attract more customers.
“It’s a gravity-driven machine made in medieval times to toss boulders into the castle walls,” said Seigars.
Instead of boulders, Seigars threw pumpkins. He threw them so well that someone suggested he attend the world championship competition in Delaware. In 2003 Seigars brought the Yankee Siege to Delaware. Despite his lack of formal engineering experience, Seigars said, his Yankee Siege won its division six years in row.
“We were throwing our 50-pound pumpkins farther than they were throwing their 10-pound pumpkins,” said Seigars.
The Yankee Siege comes out of retirement each year for the Extreme Chunkin event. Between the organized competitions, Seigars launches pianos, barrels of water, couches and Volkswagen Beetles into the sky. The counterweight alone weighs 20,000 pounds.
The kids’ division brings in school groups and families learning about physics and math by building trebuchets of their own. Seigars said the excitement the kids feel when they launch their pumpkins matches the excitement of the crowds watching.
“That’s one of the biggest crowd favorites these years. You can see the excitement. … These are the future engineers in this world. This is a learning experience and something that is going to stay with them,” said Seigars.
Hamilton said people on Facebook voted to have the Yankee Siege throw a 650-pound bail of hay. Hamilton said that while the contests are being held, there will be pumpkins launched at least every 10 minutes.
The air cannons fire the pumpkins more than 4,000 feet. Hamilton said the only way to see one of those pumpkins is to stand behind the cannon so you can track its arc. If you stand beside it, you’ll only see a puff a smoke and the pumpkin will be gone.
Part of the allure of the mechanical machines is the visible nature of their engineering. Hamilton said if you watch the catapults, trebuchets and torsion machines from the side, you can see all the mechanisms that harness the energy that launches the pumpkins.
“It’s unbelievable the speed they can generate with these pumpkins,” said Hamilton.
For more entertainment, the air cannons will shoot at a rolling shooting gallery that will have 55-gallon water barrels hanging from an A-frame pulled by a tractor. Hamilton said the pumpkins could reach a speed of Mach 1, creating a sonic boom.
Hamilton said the while the competitions are going on, carnival rides and food vendors will also be available. 

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