Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Final Results and Report for the 8th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival on Sept. 25th, 2016

We had a gorgeous, sunny, sometimes windy day at the Stoweflake Resort and Spa for the Eighth Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival with 18 teams competing in the chuck, 7 teams in the Chili Cook Off, 43 volunteers and over 1200 spectators enjoying the chuckin, chili, beer, wine, homemade pies, two bands, face-painting, balloon animals, games and volleyball.  Over $8000 was raised for the Lamoille Restorative Center (Hyde Park) whose 23 staff and volunteers did an amazing job helping with the festival.  LRC is doing great work and it was a pleasure to work with them.

Apparent Story of the festival: Father and son sweep?

It seems like the story of the festival was Dave Jordan (that's me, the organizer) after seven years of failing miserably to fire his trouble prone trebuchet, finally getting off one good throw.  And an awesome throw it was, especially considering how low I had set people's expectations.  The five pound payload went a record 693 feet (got credit for 689 because of a small weight penalty) and won the overall Best Design Grand Prize.

Don, Chris and Ann Jordan (Dave Jordan's father from Palmyra, NY, and aunt and uncle from FL) formed Team Jordan who had two pity-inspiring throws in the 1st and 2nd round; and then miraculously threw 285 feet (scaled up to 489) on their last chuck.  They were surprised by the last throw and even more surprised to find they had won the highly competitive Middleweight Open Division.

Real Story:  Nine year old girl and her dad

Emmerson Stapleton repeated her utter domination of the Lightweight Division with her innovative tripod collapsing trebuchet throwing an incredible 200 feet, which when scaled to Heavyweight would throw 590 feet!  (More on “scaling” below).  She would have been the first female and the first Lightweight to win the Best Design Grand Prize in the history of the eight year festival... if I hadn't had a very lucky, wind assisted, “throw of my life”.  Jonathon Stapleton, Emmerson's dad, brought a similar design trebuchet to the Heavyweight Division, but the design seems to be tricky to scale up to that weight.  Nonetheless, he threw a very respectable 475 feet, and once he tweaks it he may be a real contender next year.

End of an era:  No more awesome Weapons of Medieval Destruction

I first met Nick Helms, builder of Weapons of Medieval Destruction, in 2010 at the second festival when he showed up in chain mail with his huge over-height, overweight trebuchet.  The next year, in the pouring rain, his whipper design threw 519 feet (adjusted due to penalties to 354).  He knew his machine was way over-height and overweight, but didn't care about the penalty, or competing, he just wanted to inspire other people to build cool throwing machines.  He is retiring his whipper and vows to return in 2017 with a torsion catapult.

Trophy and cash winners in the trebuchet contest:

Lightweight Division (age 10 and under, trebuchet limited to 20 lbs. and 41”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Emmerson Stapleton, (Destroyer)
  • 2nd place trophy: Teresa (TPS Chuckers 2)
  • 3rd place trophy: Gustav (Whipper Snapper)

Middleweight Junior Division (age 17 and under, trebuchet limited to 100 lbs. and 70”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash:  Pack 607, Tom Knight (Elastic X)
  • 2nd place trophy: Steven McCann (Max Distance)

Middleweight Open Division: (any age, trebuchet limited to 100 lbs. and 70”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Don Jordan (Team Jordan)
  • 2nd place trophy: Ed Chamberlin (Ooh-raw)
  • 3rd place trophy: Ray Chamberlin (Queen Christine III)

Heavyweight Division: (any age, trebuchet limited to 500 lbs. and 120”)

  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Dave Jordan (Bad Boomer)
  • 2nd place trophy: Chris McGrody (Hammer of the Gourds)
  • 3rd place trophy: Jonathan Stapleton (The Stick)

Grand Prize Best Design trophy plus $50 cash: Dave Jordan (Bad Boomer)

Scaling, height, weight limitations and penalties:

I often get asked why the scaling, height and weight limitations and penalties are so complicated.  The answer is, they need to be that complicated to make it fair for all competitors.  If a trebuchet design is made twice as tall, it will throw twice as far.  This allows us to directly compare the design of a lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight by scaling up the smaller trebuchets so they compete on equal footing with the heavyweights.  By comparing their relative heights, the magic number is roughly 2.9 for the lightweight and 1.7 for the middleweights.  For example, Emmerson actually threw 200 feet, but because her trebucheet is a lightweight, it is scaled up to 590 feet.  This is how we select the Best Design Grand Prize.  The four winners of each division are scaled up to Heavyweight size.  The Lightweight winner is scaled up by 2.9, both Middlweight winners are scaled up by 1.71 and the Heavyweight winner is not scaled.  The best “scaled” distance wins the Grand Prize.  So far it has gone to the Heavyweights 3 times and to the Middlweight Open 5 times. 

A trebuchet must be powered only by gravity, so by limiting the height and weight, we ensure each competitor starts with the same amount of energy.  If they choose to make their frame very light, they can use more weight in the counterweight, at the risk of breaking something.  It takes more energy to throw a heavier pumpkin, so the pumpkins must be at, or over, the specified weight to be legal.

If a trebuchet is over-height or over-weight, we don't kick them out of the festival; we allow them to compete with a penalty roughly proportional to how much they are out of spec.  The penalty isn't really so much a penalty as a proportional offset to correct for the weight or height advantage beyond the “legal” limits. 

The following summary of each division will show the adjusted distance, after scaling up including any penalty.  If you want the actual distance, just divide by the appropriate scaling.

Summary of all competitors (all distances adjusted and scaled up to Heavyweight)

Lightweight Division: (scaling 2.9268)
  • 1st place: Emmerson Stapleton (Destroyer), 590 feet
  • 2nd place: Teresa (TPS Chuckers 2), 209 feet
  • 3rd place: Gustav (Whippersnapper) 137 feet
  • 4th place: Owen, (Tomato Tosser), 104 feet
  • 5th place: Teresa (TPS Chuckers 1), 92 feet
  • 6th place: Will Johnson, 80 feet

Middleweight Junior Division: (scaling 1.7142)
  • 1st place: Pack 607, Tom Knight, (Elastic X)
  • 2nd place: Steven McCann, (Max Distance), 93 feet

Middleweight Open Division: (scaling 1.7142)
  • 1st place: Don Jordan (Team Jordan), 489 feet
  • 2nd place: Ed Chamberlin (Ooh-rah), 422 feet
  • 3rd place: Ray Chamberlin (Queen Christine III), 393 feet
  • 4th place: Bill Wooden (Green Monster), 352 feet
  • 5th place: Ryan Brown (Redneck Wreckers), 281 feet
  • 6th place: Bob Olesen, (Wheel of Fortune), 235 feet

Heavyweight Division: (no scaling)
  • 1st place: Dave Jordan (Bad Boomer), 689 feet
  • 2nd place: Chris McGrody (Hammer of the Gourds), 483 feet
  • 3rd place: Jonathan Stapleton, (The Stick), 475 feet
  • 4th place: Nick Helms, Weapons of Medieval Destruction, 265 feet

Chili Cook Off champions:

The chili cook off was a great success with seven competitors and running out of chili before the end of the festival.  Thanks for Keith Thompson for stepping in and running the show.  Here are the winners:
  • First place trophy and $100 cash: Ken Wasserman (Make Chili Great Again)
  • 2nd place trophy and $50 cash: Al Spitzer
  • 3rd place trophy and $25 cash: (Smokers of the Lost Pork)

Thanks to our main sponsor, Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa for letting us use their beautiful field for free, as well as all the other sponsors: Stowe Country Club, The Alchemist, Concept 2, Community National Bank, Laraway Youth and Family Services, Smugglers Notch, Stackpole and French, Hoagies, Clear Water Filtration, BlueCross BlueShield of Vermont, Donald P. Blake, Jr. Inc., H.A. Manosh, Union Bank, Aubuchon Hardware, The MSI Group, Stowe Soaring, Stowe UPS, Stowe Motel, McCain Consulting, Umiak Outfitters, Trattoria La Festa, Thompson's Flour Shop, PP&D.

Special thanks to Duffy and Dan McLaughlin for setup and take down, to John Prittie to helping repair my trebuchet and help Team Jordan fire their winning throw, To Bruce Wallace and his family for being the Master of Ceremonies and helping for the last 7 years, to Mike Gladu, Nick Pizzutti and Alyssa for recording keeping and calculating the winners, to Gunner McCain for quick, cheery distance readings, to Mike Dunn for excellent sound system and House Dunn and Jen and John for great music, to Bob Gross and Russell Baum for helping out with safety and setup for the last 8 years, to Jon Halfcarhalftruck and Aaron Fourier for running the volleyball challenge, even though nobody challenged them, the volleyball court was busy all day.

We look forward to our next festival, the 9th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festial on Sept. 24th, 2017 at the Stoweflake Resort.

Dave Jordan
Festival organizer
161 Henway Road
Morrisville, VT  05661

Winning Trebuchet, Bad Boomer, courtesy Eliza Larson (@WCAX_Eliza):

Eliza Larson / WCAX:
Pumpkin Chuckers descend on Stowe for annual event --
If you're looking for a new spectator sport, try Pumpkin Chucking. That's what hundreds of people did Sunday in Stowe. 
Wood, metal, or rope -- whatever it takes to chuck a pumpkin the farthest.
"It's not really about the pumpkins. I don't really have a grudge against pumpkins," said Dave Jordan, who started the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' festival eight years ago...
Caleigh Cross /
Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival: good, messy fun --
These days, the Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival is good fun for the whole family, even those who aren’t chuckin’. A grand prize is given for best design, which could give nods to helping hands — and add another $50 and first choice of prizes provided by local sponsors to the winning haul. The event also features a volleyball competition, balloon animals, face painting, wine and beer tents, live music and a chili cook-off, a free competition that invites master chili chefs across the county to clash over crock pots for the chance to win a cash prize...