The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 27, 2013

Bucknellians pitch pumpkin 177 yards

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — RIVERSIDE — Co-workers Stacy Cole and Holly Brandon weren’t intimidated by the competition they faced in the Susquehanna Valley Pumpkin Challenge on Saturday.

“What we lack in distance, we make up in enthusiasm,” Brandon said.

Problem is the competition, held at Whitenight’s Farm Market as part of the third annual Pumpkin Palooza, tested the five participating team’s homemade catapults strictly on distance.

Cole and Brandon’s arm-powered slingshot made out of wood, a fence post, garage springs and two bungee cords was clearly out-matched by the four other teams’ much larger trebuchets created by Bucknell University mechanical engineering students, employees from Mifflinburg Lumber Co., Lewisburg Cub Scout Pack 3509 and three Shikellamy High School students.

As expected, the engineers from Bucknell won the challenge by tossing a pumpkin farthest into a cornfield at 177 yards, or 531 feet.

Placing second were competitors from Mifflinburg Lumber Co. who launched a pumpkin 111 yards, followed by the three high school students with 73 yards and the Cub Scouts, whose catapult pitched a pumpkin 60 yards. Cole and Brandon were able to propel a pumpkin about 65 feet, not even far enough to land in the corn field, but they had fun in the process.

For Cole, it was also a way to celebrate her son and inspiration, Jonathan Babb, who built a catapult for a high school project a few years ago and will soon deploy to Afghanistan with the U.S. military.

Cub Scouts Jhace Trewitz, Henry Rovnyak, and Ben Feuerstein, all 8, and Zander Tallent, 7, spent more than a month building a large wooden trebuchet for the event and, for safety reasons, watched on the sidelines as their fathers launched the 8-pound pumpkins.

Spectator Scott Blair, of Bloomsburg, studied each of the teams and their trebuchets carefully.

“I’m doing research because I’m definitely going to be a part of this next year. I’ve been wanting to fling stuff for 20 years and there’s nothing that will make you smile more than flinging pumpkins,” he said.

It was the same for Shikellamy High seniors Sam Zartman, Tanner Chesnick and Lance Brosious.

“We’ve been wanting to do this since elementary school,” Zartman said.

They spent two weeks building a 16-foot long catapult and when they tested it the night before the competition, the pumpkin launched a mere 7 yards. The second attempt was even worse.

Their dreams were nearly dashed the morning of the event when the wooden throwing arm snapped in half as they loaded it onto a trailer. The young men were able to make the repairs and scored well in the competition, including winning most creative, but the trio has their sights on an even bigger score.

“We’re hoping to get extra credit in physics class,” Zartman said.

All the competitors will be tested again Nov. 2 at the Buffalo Valley Pumpkin Pitch at Ard’s Farm Market near Mifflinburg on how well they can hit a target with their catapults.