Pumpkin Chunkin Festival in Estancia

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Pumpkin Pie Contest
Photo © Victoria Sedillo

Pumpkin patches and Halloween are one kind of fun, but the Pumpkin Chunkin Festival in Estancia, New Mexico is in a league of its own.

Teams gather on the field. Teams harness their weapons and let fly, sending vegetable fodder into the air. And while flying isn't a problem for these pumpkins, landing can be.

Started in 1995 by local farmers, the Estancia Pumpkin Chunkin contest in Estancia draws contenders from all over. Records are sought and anyone who sets one has the chance to compete in the nationals. The national contest is held in Delaware every November, where the catapults are serious and people come worldwide to compete in the World Championship Pumpkin Chunkin Contest.

The 2016 Pumpkin Chunkin event will take place on Saturday, October 15, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gates open at 8 a.m. but activities really begin at 10 a.m.

The 2016 Pumpkin Fest will be the festival's 21st year.

Pumpkin Launching

Pumpkins that launch are between eight and ten pounds. The record distance was set in 2008 at the World Championship, when Young Glory III flew 4,483.51 feet. Launched by trebuchets and catapulted through the air, these giant bucket slings got their start in the Middle Ages as weapons of war. Catapults have been around even longer, since the days of Greek and Roman glory. Both work well to hurl, or chunk, pumpkins through the air.

At the Estancia Pumpkin Chunkin Festival, pumpkins fly from:

  • Air cannons
  • Catapults
  • Hurlers
  • Slingshots
  • Trebuchets

The largest machines hurl pumpkins so fast that people can't see them whizzing past. Some are launched as far as half a mile, so viewers can't see them land. 

Registration for the launchers and practice begins at noon. The contest to decide which machine and team can throw their pumpkin the farthest will begin at 1 p.m.

But the pumpkin chunkin is just part of the day's festivities, which also include a parade, a pie eating contest, the crowning of the Pumpkin Chunkin Festival Prince and Princess, and more.

You'll Also Find:

  • Carnival rides and entertainment
  • Craft Booths
  • Food vendors and food trucks
  • Pumpkin vendors
  • Games for kids
  • School arts exhibits

The vendor area was enlarged in 2015, and more than 40 vendors could be found there. In 2016, food trucks will be added to the festivities. 

Parade
An old fashioned parade will take place down Estancia's main street beginning at 10:30 a.m. The parade lineup begins at 9:30 a.m. at the Torrance County Courthouse.

Prince and Princess
Each year, local kids from kindergarten through 6th grade compete for the title of Prince and Princess of the Pumpkinfest. Each child puts out jars and cans and asks for coin "votes." The child with the most money wins the title, one boy and one girl. Proceeds go to the Estancia Rotary, which awards it in scholarships to graduating high school seniors. The crowning of the Pumpkinfest princess and prince takes place at 1 p.m.

Where to Find It
Estancia is east of Albuquerque and south of Moriarty. Take I-40 east to Moriarty, and go south on Route 41 about 18 miles to Estancia. The contest takes place at Cape Calabaza, 1.5 miles west of Estancia on NM-55.

Cost
Parking is $10 per vehicle, which admits up to six people. Or pay $6 per person. Kids 5 and under are admitted free. Purchase tickets online.

Fundraising
The Pumpkin Chunkin Festival is put on by the Estancia Rotary.

The Rotary Club uses the money made at the festival for a variety of causes. Some money goes to scholarships for seniors graduating from Estancia High School. Money raised from the festival also goes to children participating in Girls/Boys State, Camp RYLA, a youth leadership camp, school supplies for needy children, and toys for children at Christmas.