Wednesday, June 17, 2020

12th Annual “Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival” postponed to 2021

Everyone could probably have anticipated that we had to do this. But, it still hurts to make the formal announcement. We hope to see you all next year.

Press Release:

12th Annual “Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival” postponed to 2021

Stowe, Vermont, June 16, 2020: Due to the coronavirus, the 12th annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival has been postponed this year until September 26th, 2021. Competitors now have an extra year to prepare and test their trebuchet. Thanks to the Stoweflake Resort and Spa for allowing us to use their beautiful event field and to the Clarina Howard Nichols Center and all the other sponsors and volunteers for helping run the event.

The festival has run 11 years in a row, and last year the festival won the USA Today Best Fall Festival in the nation! VTPC Festival is a fun, family event giving kids and adults a chance to build something with their hands and compete; a cross between a shot put contest and a Soap Box Derby. For the specifications, rules, current records and entry information please visit the festival's website ( for details.

Dave Jordan, event organizer: Email:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Texas Castle with Trebuchet

If you own your own private medieval castle then you must have a trebuchet to go along with it. That is exactly what Michael Newman has done in his Texas hometown of Bellville. Tiny (pop 4,000) Bellville is about halfway between Austin and Houston. There Michael has created his own medieval world, which he shares with the public. So if you are passing through south Texas check it out.

Michael Newman's Texas Castle and trebuchet

Michael Newman's castle in Bellville, Texas
Tour this Texas castle boasting a drawbridge, moat, and trebuchet --
Longtime resident Michael Newman could have gone down in history as the owner of Bellville’s much-loved Newman’s Bakery, which for 34 years has drawn a loyal patronage for breakfast specials like made-from-scratch donuts, sugar-dusted French toast, and over-easy eggs paired with buttery house-made croissants. But these days, visitors stop by the bakery for more than pastries and breakfast; it’s the first stop on a tour of a whimsical edifice outside of town known as Newman’s Castle, a full-scale replica of a medieval castle replete with five corner turrets, a 3,000-pound drawbridge, moat, and trebuchet.
Here is his website with many great pictures:
Newman's Castle -- Welcome to Newman’s Castle and Newman’s Bakery.
Mike Newman is the creative force behind both the castle and the bakery bearing his name.

Since exploring Europe in his early 20’s, he had the dream to build his own castle, and has made that a reality in the Bellville countryside. Exhibiting the same hard work and determination that built his successful bakery of nearly three decades, Mike broke ground on his mighty fortress in 1998.

“In the beginning…people thought I was crazy,” Mike revealed in an interview with Texas Live Magazine. Ten years later, and Mike could truly say that he is king of his own castle. “It makes people happy. They leave with restored faith that they can do anything.”
Here is a story that goes into the details about the construction of the castle.
A King And His Castle --
In the context of history, a castle is useless if it is indefensible, so Newman turned his attention to that challenge first. Austin County has hills but no mountains. Yaupons and oak trees offered little in the way of defense, but the presence of a pond and a couple of gullies on Newman’s property opened the possibility of a moat. Newman enlisted professionals to help build the moat and pour the castle’s foundation.

“When you build a big house on an island, you don’t want it to sink,” he said.

Newman, along with a single assistant, completed the rest of the construction...
Michael Newman king of his own Texas castle

Newman't castle has its own trebuchet
Final Hurl:
There are other castles in Texas. Check them out:
Exploring the Regal Castles of Texas

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Amazon's Modern Take on the Trebuchet

Amazon has patented a launch system that looks somewhat like a modern version of a trebuchet.

Amazon Whip Launch System
Amazon "Whip" Launch System

The patent is entitled: Energy-efficient launch system for aerial vehicles

The application says:
An energy-efficient launch system that utilizes the principles of whip dynamics to launch payloads at high speeds is described. The launch system may include a marine vehicle having an onboard power source. A tapered, superconducting cable may be retractably connected to the marine vehicle via a winch and electrically connected to the power source. One or more aerial vehicles may be coupled to and receive power via the cable. To launch a payload at the end of the cable, the marine vehicle, winch, and/or aerial vehicles may be operated in coordination to create, propagate, and accelerate a whip waveform along the cable toward the payload...
Existing methods of launching aerial vehicles generally rely on energy-inefficient processes. For example, in order to launch a payload at high speed, conventional processes utilize fuel, e.g., rocket fuel, to launch aerial vehicles. In addition, the fuel must be carried by the aerial vehicle that is being launched, thereby increasing the weight of the aerial vehicle and requiring correspondingly more energy to complete such a launch. Accordingly, it may be desirous to launch aerial vehicles and/or their payloads at high speed using energy-efficient, controlled and repeatable processes.
Whip it good! Amazon patents a launch system for snapping payloads into the air — or even into orbit

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Google's Trebuchet Misfire

It is fake history to say that Greek Hoplites and Roman Centurions used trebuchets.

Yesterday, we directed you to check out the Google sponsored "Storm the Citadel" trebuchet competition that was held on Saturday, February, 8th, at The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina. It looks like a great event and a fantastic way to introduce young people to the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It gets students involved in actually building things with their hands that are governed by the laws of physics and described by mathematical principles, which is basic engineering.

The Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival has endorsed that same idea of getting kids involved in engineering since we started hurling pumpkins back at the first Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival in 2009. Since our very first festival we have included a Lightweight trebuchet division, for kids age 10 and below, and a Junior Middleweight division for age 17 and below.

We were mildly mortified yesterday, when we realized that this Google sponsored event was apparently the 10th annual "Storm the Citadel" day, yet the first time we had become aware of it. Thank you very much Twitter. We had thought we were up to speed on what the major trebuchet competitions were around the country. Storm the Citadel with over 700 schools from South Carolina, and Florida participating, might be the biggest one of them all.

Google being Google, it looks like they sponsored and helped organize a really fun and educational day for all the people involved, plus they had great weather. This is based on the tweets and pics about the event that we saw online.

So, perhaps Google can be forgiven for not considering the subject of history when it organized its STEM "Storm the Citadel" event. After all history is considered a so called soft science or subject that is not the same as a hard science like math or physics. A good description of history on the quora website says:
History should be considered as both science and art. History is sometimes classified with the social sciences and sometimes with the “arts”. History is considered a science because, on the level of appearances, it seems to answer our questions about people, places, things, and dates...
That last word, dates, presents a very minor sticking point that we feel somewhat obligated to point out about "Storm the Citadel"

"Storm the Citadel" breaks down their trebuchet competition into 3 divisions:
  1. Hoplite Division (Grades K-5)
  2. Centurion Division (Grades 6-12, College/Org/Military) 
  3. Barbarian Division (Invitation Only)
When we first saw these trebuchet levels, we said wow, this is a much cooler way to name your divisions, than something as prosaic as lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight, like we do. It figures that Google would do things one better. But, then after sleeping on it, it dawned on us that Google or The Citadel Military College, whoever had came up with these division names, was making a historical mistake.

Historically speaking, trebuchets were not around for either the Hoplites, or the Centurions, to use. Therefore, Google by suggesting that Greek Hoplites and Roman Centurions used trebuchets is actually promoting fake history.

Here are the facts.

Hoplite warrior on ancient Greek vase
Hoplite warrior on ancient Greek vase
Hoplites, as defined by Wikipedia, were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with spears and shields. They utilized the phalanx formation in order to be effective in war with fewer soldiers. The exact time when hoplite warfare was developed is uncertain, the prevalent theory being that it was established sometime during the 8th or 7th century BC. It goes on to say: "After the Macedonian conquests of the 4th century BC, the hoplite was slowly abandoned in favour of the phalangite, armed in the Macedonian fashion, in the armies of the southern Greek states. Although clearly a development of the hoplite, the Macedonian phalanx was tactically more versatile." 

So, the historical record is that Hoplites ruled the battlefield from the 8th-7th century BC to around the 4th century BC. Some other sources said they survived into the late 3rd - early 2nd century BC.

Trebuchets would have been unknown military technology to Greek Hoplites. They did not show up in Greece until long after the Hoplites had left the battlefield. Wikipedia gives us these dates for trebuchets:
A trebuchet is a type of catapult that uses a swinging arm to throw a projectile... There are two main types of trebuchets. The first is the traction trebuchet, or mangonel, which uses manpower to swing the arm. It first appeared in China in the 4th century BC. Carried westward by the Avars, the technology was adopted by the Byzantines in the late 6th century AD and by their neighbors in the following centuries.

The later, and often larger, counterweight trebuchet, also known as the counterpoise trebuchet, uses a counterweight to swing the arm. It appeared in both Christian and Muslim lands around the Mediterranean in the 12th century AD..
Hoplites fought BC, trebuchets only showed up in Greece hundreds of years latter, AD. Additionally, the small Hoplite trebuchet kit that Google distributes for their competition is a counterpoise or counterweight trebuchet, which wasn't invented until over 1400 hundred years after the Hoplites ruled.

This is the very definition of another Greek word, "anachronism" --
An anachronism (from the Greek, "against" and khronos, "time") is a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement, especially a juxtaposition of persons, events, objects, or customs from different periods. The most common type of anachronism is an object misplaced in time..
Centuriao Romano (Roman Centurion)
Date checking Centurions, finds another possible anachronism. The rank and title of Centurion was probably gone or changed by the time the simple traction trebuchet, or mangonel, reached the Byzantines in the late 6th century AD.  The Byzantium Empire adopted Greek to replace Latin. So a Latin word like Centuriao (or Centurion) would have been replaced by the Greek word Kentarchia.

Wikipedia says: "A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 BC." It does not say exactly when the last one stood on a battlefield, possibly during the last days of the Imperial Roman Army, which would have been 476 AD. That is when Rome fell to Odoacer and his barbarians. Trebuchets were not in Europe when Rome fell.

The "Byzantine Army" page on Wikipedia has a great deal of information and lists a command structure, but it does not include or mention the term "Centurion." So it does not look like the Byzantine Army, which came after the Romans, had the rank known as "Centurion" from our somewhat limited research.

This would be an interesting question for a historian to answer definitively: would a Centurion have ever operated a trebuchet? We think not. A Centurion, was a Roman infantry officer, and even if trebuchets were in Europe before 476 AD (100 years early), a then unique weapon like a traction trebuchet would have been operated by some type of specialist, like a siege engineer. Not by some "grunt" infantry officer.

Lastly, and perhaps ironically, some barbarians probably did know about and use trebuchets. As Wikipedia points out, trebuchets were carried westward from China by the Avars. The Pannonian Avars were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of unknown origins. They are probably best known for their invasions and destruction in the Avar–Byzantine wars from 568 to 626 AD. Yes, it looks like you could call them barbarians.

Google has misplaced trebuchets in the historical timeline. So, bottom line kids, Greek Hoplites and Roman Centurions did not really use trebuchets. But the barbarians did. And those who forget history are doomed to be engineers.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Storm the Citadel 2020

Hoplite Division Competitors at Storm the Citadel
Hoplite Division competitors at "Storm the Citadel"
Today, February 8th, 2020, Google sponsored a STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) event at The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina, called "Storm the Citadel 2020."

Reportedly, over 700 schools from across South Carolina and Florida are participating in this 10th annual Storm the Citadel event.

It involved three different trebuchet building divisions:

1) Hoplite Division (Grades K-5)
This division challenged teams to build a functional trebuchet from a provided kit. This trebuchet must have been able to safely and accurately launch a small rubber ball to accurately hit a target set 2-10 feet away.

2) Centurion Division (Grades 6-12, College/Org/Military)
The Centurion division challenged teams to design and build a trebuchet within design specifications. This trebuchet must have been able to safely and accurately launch a standard lacrosse ball in a manner that would accurately hit a target set anywhere between 50-200 feet away. This year the target was placed 120 feet away.

3) Barbarian Division (Invitation Only)
Barbarian teams are comprised of skilled individuals who design and build a trebuchet that can safely and accurately launch a 10-pound ballistic in a manner that will accurately hit a target set anywhere between 300-400 feet away. The competition is designed to inspire and invigorate the true nature of the Barbarian-Engineering....

They also have bridge building, robotics, and rocket competitions.

Here is the website:

Bravo and good luck to everyone participating in "Storm the Citadel 2020"


Here is the Google Instruction Page on how to build the Hoplite Trebuchet from their kit:
Hoplite Kit Construction --

Google 2020 Hoplite Trebuchet
Google 2020 Hoplite Trebuchet

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Results of Sept. 29th, 2019 Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival

We had a beautiful sunny day at the Stoweflake Resort and Spa for the eleventh annual
Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival with 14 teams competing in the chuck, 3 teams in the
Chili Cook Off, 31 volunteers and over 1,000 spectators enjoying the chuckin, chili, beer,
wine, food, raffles, two bands, face-painting, and games. Over $13,000 was raised for the
Clarina Howard Nichols Center (Morrisville) whose staff and volunteers did an amazing
job running the festival. The Clarina Howard Nichols Center is doing great work and they
did a fantastic job running the festival for the second year in a row!

Stapleton family sweep using the new “walking arm” trebuchet design!

For the 2nd year in a row, Orion Stapleton won the overall Grand Prize coming out of the
Lightweight Division. His dad, Jonathan Stapleton, won the Heavyweight division. John
was gracious enough to put an “instructable” up on our festival blog showing a video,
pictures and text to build his new “walking arm” trebuchet design and showing how to
scale it up to middleweight or heavyweight division.

Special mention:

Theresa Tipper has come many years in a row and this year brought 3 trebuchets to
compete in the Lightweight Division! Nick Helms has competed 10 out of eleven years
(more than any other competitor, including the organizer Dave Jordan) and brought a
totally new design this year to the festival. The Chamberlain brothers from Moosilauke,
NH are usually the first to arrive (a day early) and this year was no different. But this
year, they split divisions with Ray staying in the Middleweight and Ed moving up to the
Heavyweight Division. One of many father/son teams competed with Steven and Steve
McCann with the son beating the father, just as Orion beat his dad (Jon Stapleton). Don
Jordan (father of the organizer) competed for the 9th time at age 89!

New competitors:

We had a number of new competitors this year: Finn Riley and John (Muddy Dogs), Tyler
Barnard and Julie (Engineering Ventures), Andy Smith, Chris Boudreau, Juan barena,
Kellen Louis, and Tom Laroche (Heritage Aviation)

Results of the trebuchet contest:

Lightweight Division (age 10 and under, trebuchet limited to 20 lbs. and 41”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Orion Stapleton from VT.
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Theresa Tipper from VT. (Tipper A)
  • 3rd place trophy plus $10 cash: Theresa Tipper from VT. (Tipper B)
  • 4th place: Theresa Tipper from VT. (Tipper C)
Middleweight Junior Division (age 17 and under, trebuchet limited to 100 lbs. and 70”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Steven McCann from Maine. (MAX D 23)
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Finnian Riley from VT. (Muddy Dogs)
Middleweight Open Division: (any age, trebuchet limited to 100 lbs. and 70”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Ray Chamberlain from NH (Moosilauke Hurlers)
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Tyler Barnard from VT. (Engineering Ventures)
  • 3rd place trophy plus $10 cash: Don Jordan from NY. (Team Jordan)
Heavyweight Division: (any age, trebuchet limited to 500 lbs. and 120”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Jonathan Stapleton from VT.
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Ed Chamberlain from NH. (Moosilauke Hurlers)
Grand Prize Best Design trophy plus $50 cash: Orion Stapleton
Summary of all competitors (all distances adjusted and scaled up to Heavyweight)
Lightweight Division: (scaling 2.9268)
  • 1st place: Orion Stapleton, 658 feet
  • 2nd place: Theresa Tipper, (Tippers B) 223 feet
  • 3rd place: Theresa Tipper (Tippers C) 181 feet
  • 4th place: Theresa Tipper (Tipper A) 118 feet
Middleweight Junior Division: (scaling 1.7142)
  • 1st place: Steven McCann, (MAX D 23) 319 feet
  • 2nd place: Finnian Riley, (Muddy Dogs) 41 feet
Middleweight Open Division: (scaling 1.7142)
  • 1st place: Ray Chamberlain, (Moosilauke Hurlers) 503 feet
  • 2nd place: Tyler Barnard, (Engineering Ventures) 499 feet
  • 3rd place: Don Jordan, (Team Jordan) 439 feet
  • 4th place: Nick Helms, (Weapons of Mass Destruction) 357 feet
  • 5th place: Steve McCann (MAX D 23) 319 feet
  • 6th place: Andy Smith (Heritage Aviation) 317 feet
Heavyweight Division: (no scaling)
  • 1st place: John Stapleton, 487 feet
  • 2nd place: Ed Chamberlain (Moosilauke Hurlers) 181 feet

Chili Cook-Off:

The chili cook-off was a great success with three competitors and running out of chili
before the end of the festival. Thanks for Deb Papineau (Deb's Place) for running the

Sponsors and Volunteers:

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:

Heavy Weight Sponsors – N.A. Manosh and NorthCountry Federal Credit Union
Middle Weight Sponsors – Bourne’s Energy, Casella, Community National Bank, and Jay
Peak Resort
Light Weight Sponsors – Coldwell Banker Carlson Real Estate, Deb’s Place, Donald P.
Blake Jr., Inc., Edward Jones – Caren Merson, Leaves of Change VT, MSI, Stowe Motel,
Olsen and Associates, PP&D Distribution, The Alchemist, The Bagel, Umiak Outdoor
Outfitters, UPS Store, Yellow Turtle

Special thanks to Bruce Wallace and his family for being the Master of Ceremonies and
helping for the last 9 years, to Phil, Ethan, Ed, Brian, Kelsey for registration and
calculating the winners, to Tricia Kules (Little River Survey) for accurate distance
readings, to Mike Dunn for excellent sound system and House Dunn (Mike, Isabella,
Jocelyn and Julia, and John Smyth for great music, to Bob Gross for helping out with
safety and setup for the last 10 years, to Dan McLaughlin for tent setup.

Please contact me with any suggestions for next year's festival or corrections to this

We look forward to the next festival, Sept. 27th, 2020 at the Stoweflake.

Dave Jordan
Festival organizer
161 Henway Road
Morrisville, VT 05661

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

People’s Choice Chili Cook-off Contest

A reminder that the People's Choice Chili Cook-off Contest is open to one and all at this year's VTPC.

For the sixth year in a row, the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival is proud to offer a People’s Choice Chili Contest. The festival is at Stoweflake Mountain Resort on Sunday, Sept 29th,2019. Whip up 2 gallons of your best chili and you get in for free AND a chance to win $100 if your chili is voted best!

  1. Each competitor must supply at least 2 gallons of chili to be judged by the people.
  2. Each competitor must supply an electric crockpot to keep the chili warm. Electricity and a test will be provided.
  3. Event is held rain or shine, Sunday, Sept 29th, 2019.
  4. Contest will start at 12:15pm and end roughly at 2:30, or when chili runs out.
  5. Samplers, bowls, napkins and spoons will be provided.
  6. Preregistration is encouraged, but not required.
  7. If you plan to compete, please email Dave Jordan (organizer) the following information to
  • a. Name
  • b. Team Name (Optional)
  • c. Email address
  • d. Telephone number
  • e. Chili Recipe name and description
  • f. Ingredients (Optional)
updated Final Throw:

Thanks for putting us on the list!
5 Best Pumpkin Festivals in New England --
Looking for phenomenal fall celebrations? These annual events are the 5 best pumpkin festivals in New England!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

World's Simplest and Newest Trebuchet (Walking Arm Trebuchet)

We recently received a very informative and interesting email from Jonathan Stapleton our 2018 VTPC Heavyweight Champion and current world record holder (700 feet). His son, Orion Stapleton, won last year's Lightweight Division and the overall Grand Championship for Best Design of a trebuchet. Orion's lightweight trebuchet, named Demolisher, demolished the competition with a throw of 266 feet, which was 180 feet better than the 2nd place competitor. Orion's trebuchet also beat the 200 foot lightweight world record that his sister, Emmerson Stapleton, had held since 2016 with her "Destroyer" trebuchet. At the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' competition lightweight trebuchets are required to weigh less than 20 lbs. and be under 41" in height.

The Stapleton's have achieved their dominance of the VTPC competition over the years with a very unique and innovative trebuchet design called the "Walking Arm Trebuchet." This design looks so simple and straightforward that almost anyone should be able to build one.

The Stapleton's have graciously published an excellent article showing and explaining how to build this incredible trebuchet. You should all check it out.

By Mr. Stapleton /
This is the world premier of our new trebuchet design. Not only is the trebuchet simple, it is extremely efficient. It has many of the advantages of a floating arm trebuchet, but with fewer parts, less friction, and a unique projectile launch path. As you can see in my son's video, above, the projectile never swings backward beyond its starting point, reducing the dangers to bystanders behind the trebuchet....
Simple Stapleton Walking Arm Trebuchet
Stapleton Walking Arm Trebuchet

Final Throw:

A big hat tip and thank you to
Thanks for recognizing our win in the USA Today Best Fall Festival. And for talking up some other great New England Fall festivals:
USA Today readers say this New England fall festival is the best in America

The Hackaday website did a very nice review of the Stapleton Trebuchet:
Walking Arm Trebuchet is different, but effective by Lewin Day
"uses an unconventional design to great effect..."
BTW, there are now only 17 days 'till the 11th Annual VTPC at Stoweflake Mountain Resort