Not the typical fall festival. Thousands of people come to Clayton, New York, each October to watch massive trebuchets (think medieval-style catapults) launch pumpkins in excess of 1,000 feet into the St. Lawrence River. It all happens at Clayton’s waterfront Frink Park, where 19th century trains from New York City dropped-off wealthy visitors in pursuit of fresh air and recreation.
Punkin Chunkin typically has more than a half-dozen launchers standing as high as 15 feet in the air. Most often, they’re made by construction and engineering firms though occasionally a professional launcher will stop by from the “chunkin circuit” to dazzle onlookers. A children’s division is always included, where younger engineers can show off their mettle.
The day includes a town-wide barbecue contest, where nearly a dozen vendors smoke and slather their best to the enjoyment of all. Pumpkin-themed bounce houses, kids games and more shut down the main drag, allowing free movement among the shops and park to see the pumpkins.
Punkin Chunkin is usually mid-October following Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving, so things have quieted a bit but the community rolls out the orange carpet for all to enjoy.