It’s pumpkin patch season, and in Chicago, that means big business for area farms, who don’t just sell pumpkins, they sell admission to an entire autumnal carnival, chock-a-block with camel rides, pig races, pony rides, petting zoos, kettle corn, maize mazes and the list goes on. Tomorrow, I’m going to Goebberts Pumpkin Patch, which has all of the above, along with a pumpkin eating dinosaur, haunted 3D mine (?), and more. There’s some pretty stiff competition in the world of pumpkin patches in Illinois (Morton, Illinois is actually the “Pumpkin Capital of the World), so it’s not easy choosing a site (this comprehensive guide help).
Of course, elaborate carnie patches aren’t the only way to celebrate pumpkin season, and Illinois is in no way the only Halloween-happy state. Other places have a hootenanny of a time chucking pumpkins (that, for the uninitiated, involves a machine that hurls a pumpkin through the sky only to have it splat! in a pond or explode on the ground on impact), carving them underwater, racing them (naked or as an actual flotation device) and even shooting the squash.
Here’s a roundup of Extreme Pumpkin Celebration USA:
1. Punkin Chunkin: Since 1986, no pumpkin on or near Royal Farms in Delaware has been safe. They all get chucked—as far as 3,000 feet, during the annual World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’. The event got its start when four guys were standing around, talking about throwing pumpkins. After the traditional back-and-forth of “I bet I can throw it farther than you,” they began chucking, and the event was born. Now nationally recognized, pumpkin chuckers come from all over with their own squash hurling devices. Last year, Punkin Chunkin drew more than 20,000 people to Royal Farms in Bridgeville, Delaware and grossed more than $100,000. Much of that will be distributed in scholarships.
(Here are a few of the stated rules: All pumpkins fired must remain intact until they impact the ground to obtain an official measurement; No part of the machine shall cross the firing line; No Wadding (including bean chaff, straw, foam, metal, or any other object; No explosives are allowed.)
2. Naked Pumpkin Run: Step 1. Carve a pumpkin. Step 2. Take of your clothes. Step 3. Put on your running shoes. Step 4. Put carved pumpkin on your head. Step 5. Shine on, you crazy jack-o-lantern, and run like the wind. Last year, runs took place in Boulder, Colorado, Seattle Washington, Portland, Oregon, Arcata, California and Sebastopol, California.
3. Underwater pumpkin carving: Why do we even use the phrase “underwater basket weaving” anymore when we can say “underwater pumpkin carving”? It’s more popular than you might think–and more difficult. Those plump-kins are buoyant until pierced! There are contests and events in Maui, Florida, North Carolina and even Chicago. Check out this video to see underwater pumpkin carvers in action.
4. Giant Pumpkin Kayaking. Don’t just carve the pumpkin—kayak it! Every year in Tualatin, Oregon, the pumpkins double as transportation as costumed competitors row, row, row their pumpkin slowly round the lake during the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta. The fruits are locally grown and range in size from 600 to 1,000 pounds.
5. Smashing Pumpkins (by shooting them up). In Las Vegas, they don’t kid around. No chucking, no underwater pumpkin carving, no gourd kayaks. Here, they shoot ’em. This year, the (public) Clark County Shooting Range is hosting the second annual Pumpkin Smash, where you can shoot at paper pumpkin targets and/or ” real pumpkins that ooze green.” Whatever that means.