It had long been rumored that Punkin’ Chunkin’ would be moving from its home in Sussex County to nearby Maryland.
But in a surprise development, it was announced Tuesday that the event will move to the nation’s heartland in Rantoul in central Illinois.
The event will be held in a sprawling area that once housed Chanute Air Force Base. The base was closed a quarter-century ago.
“Unfortunately, our unique event requires large tracts of land. The Wheatley’s 600-acre property in Bridgeville, Delaware has served us well to date. We are very supportive of the land owner’s decision to not continue to host the event,” according to a statement from organizers.
The event pumped millions of dollars into the Sussex County economy over the years,with some proceeds going to charity. However, it faced its share of internal and external challenges as the event grew and population growth continued in Sussex.
In recent years, Punkin Chunkin saw lawsuits over injuries at the event. Liability insurance was another issue. Sponsors had hoped the event would return this year but did not rule out moving elsewhere.
The association representing trial lawyers opposed legislation aimed at reducing the liability of sponsors or the landregarding the event that features pumpkins tossed from catapults or air powered cannons. Trial lawyers denied theirstance was aimed at killing the event.
Punkin Chunkin, along the way, gained world renown, with TV crews coming from overseas to do stories on the offbeat event that may have outgrown rapidly developing Sussex County, which has seen an influx of retirees and other new residents.