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Punkin Chunkin headed to the Midwest

James Dawson/Delaware Public Media
Punkin Chunkin’s three-decade run in the First State is over.";

An iconic Delaware event, Punkin Chunkin, is leaving the First State and headed to the Midwest.

After calling Sussex County home for 33 years, the World Punkin Chunkin Championship has a new home - an abandoned Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois.

World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association president Frank Payton says the organization’s board voted to make the move this week.


“We have in our bylaws that the Captains make the vote on change of venue. And the 92 Captains voted; out of the 92 - 70% indicated “yes” we’re going and the other 30% said “no” we don’t think Rantoul is a good option,” said Payton.

Payton says the move leaves him with mixed feelings.

“Emotions are definitely both ways," Payton said. "I’m excited to see a tradition continue on and it needed to continue on. It was a constant battle to try to figure out how to make in happen on Delmarva. We did have people in Delaware and Maryland come forward, but unfortunately our event has grown of course to a world champion status.”

Payton says this year’s event is scheduled for November 1 through 3, 2019 at the former Chanute Air Force Base.


Ocean City, Maryland officials explored hosting this year’s event, but Payton says the set-up there would have flung pumpkins into the Atlantic Ocean and measuring the distance would have been a problem.

Punkin Chunkin was last held in 2016 at its long-time Bridgeville, Delaware home.  It has been on hiatus since, after a cannon misfire seriously injured a woman at that event.


Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.