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Punkin chunkin festival drew thousands to Clayton (VIDEO)

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CLAYTON — Pumpkins, people and partnerships were celebrated during the second annual Punkin Chunkin Festival and barbecue contest held Saturday in the village’s downtown.

Pumpkins large and small were both sold and chucked into the St. Lawrence River with launchers resembling siege devices, but it was the smallest of participants who made some of the biggest impact during the festival’s Chuck Wagon Punkin Chunkin.

The latter event, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Clayton, encouraged youths from local schools and community organizations to develop their own launching devices to hurl small pumpkins into the water, but also to collect food for local pantries.

“What happens here is they have fun and help the community,” said David Neuroth, Rotary Club president. “Here, they get to go out, gather the goods, and see that makes a difference. They become more involved by doing something physical.”

Five teams participated in the Chuck Wagon Punkin Chunkin, which brought in 2,081 pounds of food for local pantries.

As each team launched its pumpkins, spectators smelled the scent of savory barbecue wafting over from across the street on Riverside Drive. While 11 teams competed for the tastiest barbecue eats, down the road at various booths at Hawn Memorial Library and Thousand Islands Museum, both on James Street, there were horse-drawn carriage rides, boat tours, pumpkin sales, pumpkin bowling, children’s pumpkin smashing, a farmers market, pumpkin crafts, a boat raffle, a pumpkin decorating contest, a scarecrow contest and underwater pumpkin carving to keep thousands of visitors busy.

Tricia L. Bannister, executive director of the 1000 Islands-Clayton Area Chamber of Commerce, the organization that hosts the event, said everyone involved was much more prepared this year than in 2012.

“We learned a ton from last year,” she said. “We want to continue to have it big and to have our farmers market vendors come along Riverside Drive and have people support our businesses.”

The main attraction was the regular Punkin Chunkin, where eight teams brought homemade trebuchets and catapults, which shot pumpkins into the water at anywhere from 50 to 100 miles per hour.

“Everyone’s working wonderfully with us,” said P. Michael Strouse, event chairman. “It’s redneck; you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t redneck. It’s just a fun event. Who wouldn’t want to throw pumpkins in the water?”

One person who said he wouldn’t miss it for the world is John Powers, former village resident who now lives in Ohio. His son, Michael, along with his teammates in New Hampshire, holds a record with the annual Punkin Chunkin World Championship in Delaware for having launched a pumpkin 2,050 feet with a powerful catapult.

“This year we’ll be over 3,000 feet,” said the elder Mr. Powers, who was dressed in medieval-themed attire. “This here is a great idea to bring the community together. All these competitors are friendly. It’s about camaraderie. How much more fun do you want? It’s ballistics and fruit.”

Video of the contest can be seen at http://wdt.me/punkin-chunkin.






Punkin Chunkin in Clayton
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