Pumpkin chuckers are world champs

GREENFIELD – Steven Seigars and his Yankee Siege trebuchet are now world champion pumpkin chuckers.

Seigars and his crew attended the world punkin chunkin championship meet in Millsboro, Del., on Nov 5-7 and finished first out of nine teams in his category, tossing a pumpkin 1,394.29 feet. He was competing for the first time.

“Our first toss set a world record, and then we broke our own record the next day,” Seigars said on Sunday. “It was the biggest machine there and kind of stole the show.”

The Yankee Siege weighs about 40,000 pounds. It had to be disassembled and packed onto a trailer for the trip to Delaware.

“Chuck Willard was able to get it all on one trailer,” Seigars said. “He’s a genius. If anyone could do it, Chuck could.”

Willard, a Hancock resident, is a construction engineer and spent a lot of time with Seigars building the trebuchet by trial and error, using all manner of junk to make parts.

They had never taken it apart before, Seigars added, “and it took two days to get it apart. We put it back together again in Delaware in six hours, and then took it apart again in two hours. We had a good crew.” Assembly required a crane.

A trebuchet is a siege-engine from the middle ages and not a catapult, Seigars said.

“It is gravity-driven and uses a counterweight to toss the pumpkin held in a sling. It is 50 feet high and rides on four 10-foot iron wheels.

The Yankee Siege was designed to throw up to 300 pounds, so they had to “gear it down” for the 8- to 10-pound pumpkins in the contest. Each contestant gets only three minutes to fire, he said. If something goes wrong, the pumpkin explodes in the air as they sometimes do from pressure, or anything else, the turn is lost.

To cut down on the exploding pumpkins, “most are using a white variety that has a thick skin. I’ll have to grow some of those.”

Seigars and Willard built the trebuchet a couple of years ago as a promotion for his Yankee Farmer Farmstand on Route 31. The trebuchet and related items, including a castle on hill used as a target, are on the opposite side of the road.

“I can grow a lot more pumpkins than I can sell,” he said. “We sell hats and T-shirts, trying to make a profit for the stand.”

Because of safety features and the operation of the machine, “we can shoot it about once every half hour.” To fill that time, he added a few more features this year, including a 10,000-pound “mace,” a huge steel ball covered with spikes.

“We have kind of a skit, where someone drives a car in and we tell them they can’t park there. There is an argument, then Chuckie gets into the crane and drops the ball on the car.”

Cars are provided by a local junkyard.