Vermonters compete to chuck pumpkins - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters compete to chuck pumpkins

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During the fall months, Cambridge is home to some of the best seasonal colors. But, on at least one Sunday in this small Vermont town, streaks of pumpkin-orange draw more spectators than the foliage.

Nick Helms says he can't imagine a hobby more enjoyable than 'Pumpkin Chuckin'. "I mean, what's more fun than building something and then watching the success of it flying through the air," he said, "it's just indescribable."

Initially dreamed up during the middle ages as siege weapons, Helms and those at the Fourth Annual Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival use trebuchets to fling gourds through the air. The contest determines the best amateur engineer and raises money for the area Rotary Club.

James Spanier, a four-year veteran, says the key to success is failure. "Trial and error, there's a lot of info out there, but nothing's down to the science," he said, "you have to find the right balance of pumpkin and counter weight, sling length, how your boom works, how long things work before they break."

Spanier call his current creation "Version 3.0." He reduced the counter-weight from 2,000 lbs. to 1,000 lbs. which led to more consistent chucks. His current long is 350 feet.

"I would love to have like close to one thousand feet, but I'm nowhere near that," he said, "next year I think I'm going to modify it again."

Spanier says he wants mimic the design of Helms and others.

Helms eclipsed 500' last year. "It's called a 'whipper' because it whips around," he said.

His secret: an extra arm offers an extra 90 degrees of rotation, and extra distance. He'll need to adapt as well though, because each year there's extra competition.

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