Punkin' Chunkin' Officially Needs a New Home, Could Leave Sussex - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Punkin' Chunkin' Officially Needs a New Home, Could Leave Sussex Co.

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BRIDGEVILLE, Del. (WBOC) - Punkin Chunkin is homeless. Organizers need to find a new field to fire the flying gourds.

Soon after last year's Punkin Chunkin wrapped up it became clear the annual event might be on the move. This week that move went from possible to definite.

The move could take Punkin' Chunkin' out of Sussex County for the first time.

People have been chunkin' punkins in Sussex County for more than a quarter century. And for the last seven years, that's been happening in a Bridgeville-area field belonging to Dale Wheatley.

"Once I got sued, I had to find some way to not be liable for that. It never happened," he said.
Wheatley is talking about a multi-million-dollar lawsuit over an ATV accident a couple years ago at the event. As land owner, he's a defendant in that suit.

Considering the risk he sees in having Punkin Chunkin on his land moving forward, Wheatley has decided he'd rather not.

"While this is disappointing news," John Huber, president of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association, said in a statement. "The WCPCA is, and has been exploring all options, and has maintained discussions with parties both within and outside of Delaware."

There are a lot of people who don't want to see Punkin Chunkin leave Sussex County. Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, is one of them. He's been working with the organizers. He even worked on a bill designed to address Wheatley's liability concerns.

Sen. Pettyjohn says he's cautiously optimistic Punkin Chunkin will stay in southern Delaware.

"There's a lot of land in Sussex County," he said. "There are a lot of large farms in Sussex County. I don't think it's going to be much of a problem to relocate Punkin Chunkin and keep it here in Sussex County."

"It's hard to find a place big enough for all that out there," Wheatley said. "They were utilizing probably 300 acres."

Wheatley says if another farmer considering hosting Punkin Chunkin asked him he would explain what that farmer would be up against and that he stands to lose everything.

The Punkin Chunkin website has a countdown to the 2014 event. It's dates are set for Oct. 24-26. It's location, just like so many pumpkins, is up in the air.

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