Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, I Give You the Moab Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival

Once again, Halloween rolls around and that means it's time for the Moab Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival. A local youth organization, the Youth Garden Project, sponsors it and this is the third year. It's the first year Nancy and I were able to get there because we've had to work on Saturdays for the past several years.
What a spectacle it is. It's held at the old airport on a crumbling patch of asphalt south of town. There are food vendors, folks selling crafts and informational booths. We were astounded at the number of cars that were lined up on the tarmac for the event. And unlike other Moab events, it seems to be mostly locals.
I took several pictures (that's pitchers here in Utah) of the contraptions that are designed to hurl pumpkins out into the desert. We watched the trial run. One of the monstrosities was constructed on a flatbed truck, others were built on trailers and others were sitting on the ground. Some of the contraptions were based on the old design of a trebouchet. Trebouchets, as you no doubt know, were originally designed to hurl rocks at castles during a siege. They predate the knowledge of gunpowder and then later, the inability to manufacture a cannon that wouldn't explode and kill the cannoneers. They depend on a fulcrum, leverage and gravity and a great weight suspended and dropped. Some of the contraptions were based on the model of a really large slingshot, depending on some form of elasticity, rather than the trebouchet, which depends on force and motion magnified by the length of the arm. (Think of the biblical David and his non-elastic sling.) The most successful pumpkin chucker, as far as distance was concerned, was the one pictured in a few of the last pictures. It was welded from what looks like 2 inch black pipe. It had weights of old gears attached to the frame to hold it down and the falling weight was scrap iron and concrete. It was a trebouchet, and being constructed out of welded steel, was more stable and transferred all of the force into slinging the pumpkin. No force was lost or absorbed by poor wood to wood connections and the natural ability of wood to flex.
The second picture shows a trebouchet in action, actually swinging a pumpkin into the air, although not very far. Click on it to enlarge. The crowds were kept at a distance behind a rope in case of a catastrophe. I can easily imagine some parts flying off one of these things and doing great harm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw a Nova (I think) program on trebuchets, one English fellow had a crew build one and they launched a grand piano across the field, it was very funny. I would love to see the pumpkins some day. Leslie