NEW BETHLEHEM – Periodic drizzle and generally damp conditions did not keep spectators away from the 13th annual Pumpkin Chunkin’ festivities on Saturday, Oct. 26. Held in the rear parking lot of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 415 in New Bethlehem, the pumpkin chunking event featured compressed-air cannons and more traditional catapult-type wooden trebuchets which flung orange orbs across Red Bank Creek toward a target on the opposite shore.
Del Delavare, manager at the veterans club, said, “The crowd looks bigger than it was for the past two years or so. This time, it is in honor of Brian Anderson who passed away earlier this year.”
Delavare said that the odd small-town event was the brain child of both Anderson and the late Gary “Fud” Snyder. Part of the proceeds from Saturday’s event were to benefit Anderson’s family.
Snyder’s former truck, now owned by a couple of other area men, was outfitted with a warning signal that sounds much like a vintage train horn. In the seconds before an oversize squash was launched from the truck’s air cannon, the horn sounded to alert bystanders. What followed was a resounding boom as an orange fruit sailed through the air toward a target on the Armstrong County side of the creek.
Umbrellas went up and down, small groups formed and drifted apart, pumpkins flew and attendees filled up on some very welcome hot food. A large booth directly behind the VFW’s back door served up favorite crockpot-type victuals, allowing spectators to remain outdoors and not miss a minute of the action.
As with most of the vendors last Saturday, the food booth’s cash proceeds went to a worthy cause — homeless veterans. Other charities represented that day benefited causes as diverse as the Anderson family and a boy’s best friend who is battling cancer.
The exact cause being supported did not seem to matter to the large crowd standing on the banks of the Red Bank. They wanted some fun on a rainy October Saturday and to do a bit of good at the same time.
The annual event, held the weekend before Halloween most years, has a homespun quality to it that draws area residents to New Bethlehem’s business district. Lots of people, in costume or in everyday clothes, trailed up and down the sidewalks in search of fun.