This past weekend, we took the kids down to the middle of a Delaware to watch pumpkins being shot out of air cannons, catapults, and trebuchets. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My first inkling that it was not going to be a family-friendly event (as advertised) should have been the spelling. While I understand that pumpkin chucking is a mouthful and doesn’t have the same verve as “punkin’ chunkin’”, any event that sounds like it could host a Honey Boo Boo family reunion probably isn’t going to be PG. Also, I should have used the brain God gave me to realize that you have to be drunk and stupid to think standing next to a jury-rigged piece of pressurized steel is ever a good idea.
The second big hint that this was no ordinary fall festival was the parking lot. I haven’t seen that level of tailgating since Buffet. This was professional-level revelry. Corn hole? Check. Bocci? Check. Beer pong? Check. Some weird thing with PVC piping and rocks on a sling that my husband called poor-man’s horse shoes? Check. These people didn’t just throw a football in the trunk and call it a day. These people threw the better part of a Home Depot in the back of a pickup and built themselves something glorious. I can only imagine what the overnight camping parking lot looked like. They probably had full wet bars, hot tubs, and tiki huts over there.
The redneck ingenuity of the parking lot carried over into the venue. There were people wearing bandoliers of beer cans, belts made of beer cans, and for one particularly Gandalf-loving group, walking sticks made of duct-taped Budweiser cans. The more they drank, the higher the staff. I’m pretty sure that by the end of the day, they could have used those things to pole vault. This wasn’t a Red Solo cup event – this was a drink straight from the bottle until the bottle ran out type of event – all while sitting on stacked futons, hastily-constructed viewing platforms, or in one case, a couch being pulled around on an ATV. This was ground zero for alcohol poisoning and it was really quite something to behold.
Honestly, it is not like I blame them. Waiting for pumpkins to be launched thousands of feet in the air takes a while. You’ve got to do something to fill the time. We actually wound up getting to the event right as competition was ending. The rest of the day was spent in open fire mode where the sky was filled with flying pumpkins. The key is to make them splat, not explode. Also important was the ability to operate your machinery without spilling your beer. We watched one group of Darwin-award nominee’s use a socket wrench to hand crank a wooden contraption that looked closer to a torture device than a catapult. They couldn’t get a lot of momentum going because well, they were using a socket wrench, and because they refused to put down their cans of Bud Light. We all cheered enthusiastically only to watch the pumpkin pathetically roll a whole five feet into the dirt. I was just happy the poor kid standing closest to it still had a hand. These machines are not exactly following OSHA standards for safety. In fact the next day, one of the bigger air cannons actually exploded, shooting pieces of scrap metal hither and yon. Safety was definitely not first in the minds and hearts of the crowd or the competitors.
I have to be fair and state that while this crowd was raucous, it wasn’t rude. Sure, people were falling down drunk, but they were laughing when they fell. Yes, they did walk around in very large groups usually in matching outfits (camo overalls were popular for the men, flannel shirts/cowboy boots/Daisy Dukes for the women), but they always politely moved aside when my family came through. At one point, we were all in a large group that was being filmed for the Discovery Channel. While the Mythbuster trio of Tory, Kari, and Grant did their thing up front, the group of 20-somethings next to us did their best to get my kids to the front of the crowd and in camera range. The fact that they did this while slurring every other word, uses curses in place of articles of speech, and practically offered to beat the shit out of anyone who got in my kids way was just, well, darling. Their eyes couldn’t focus, but their hearts were in the right place.
We left right before the rain moved in and walking back through the mostly deserted parking lot was just as entertaining. There were a number of grills just left high and dry as their owners realized the inherent difficulty of getting a burning hot grill back into the trunk after a day of cooking burgers. There was the requisite ball playing and some really poor parenting choices. Letting your three year old ride a mini-ATV the size of an average car tire through a parking lot is a great idea if the parking lot is empty. However, when it is full of oversized trucks and SUVs all trying to pull out, many of which had to be driven by people way beyond the legal limit, well, that just seems like you don’t really want to take that child home with you, at least not in anything larger than a box.
In the end, a good time was had by all. Except for the pumpkins. I don’t think they enjoyed it one bit.