Some of you may remember last year I visited the annual Pumpkin Walk in North Logan’s Elk Ridge Park. The yearly tradition has become a much-anticipated fall attraction — not only for residents of North Logan — for people from all over the valley. This year’s pumpkin-lined gourd gallery was no exception. But for Pumpkin Walk planners and North Logan city administrators the question was, essentially — What do they do with all those pumpkins?
According to North Logan Public Works Director Alan Luce, the annual pumpkin walk brings in roughly 60,000 spectators each year. With dozens of displays designed by all sorts of Cache Valley organizations and individuals, the attraction is always a hit among the young and old alike. After the last night of operation, though, the mountain of remaining pumpkins is massive. This is how the idea for a new tradition came about.
Luce said for the past few years the city has received several requests for a pumpkin launching contest, similar to the “pumpkin chunkin'” festivals that are popping up all over Utah, the U.S. and the world. The Discovery channel even aired a special about some of the enthusiasts that build contraptions like pumpkin cannons, trebuchets, catapults and slingshots to launch these seed-filled, pulpy orange missiles.
I hung out for two hours to watch the crowd of bystanders and onlookers grow. When I showed up at 12:30 p.m. — just 30 minutes before the show was set to begin — two of the three teams from USU’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers were setting up their designs. Team Legit developed a pumpkin catapult and Team Frankie made a floating arm trebuchet. The third team, called The Butternut Bouncers, showed up a little late with its floating arm trebuchet and got set up and ready to join the butternut battle.
I walked around inspecting the three designs and chatting with the students who made them. I was quite impressed by the element of teamwork and cooperation that was evident in the performance that each team displayed. When it came down to the moment of truth, Team Legit had some performance issues due to faulty release mechanisms. Eventually, though, the team was able to successfully launch a few pumpkins within the the 30- and 50-foot range. Legit won most creative design, since its design was not a trebuchet.
Team Frankie and The Butternut Bouncers each launched successful retire Jack O’Lanterns as far as 165 feet. Both teams, however, experienced some unexpected technical difficulties. A few times team members, event organizers and journalists all had to scatter to avoid the 15-pound pumpkins that were launched vertically and landed behind the machines. There were also misfires and backward launches, but luckily no humans or cars were injured in the making of the first-ever North Logan pumpkin launching competition.
Team Frankie won the prize for most accurate for grouping three of its shots in the same 100-foot range, and the Butternuts won the prize for distance with the 165-foot best.
USU mechanical engineering student and ASME President Dallin Jackson said this could very well become a yearly event. He said he felt the first production was a blast. The turnout of local spectators exceeded the expectations of those who planned it. Luce told me that North Logan and its council and committee members would like to continue to build on the annual pumpkin-centered traditions by adding Pumpkin Days to the calendar. He said this would be a great way to add interest to the already growing parks and recreation fascination in North Logan. Other events that were recently included were the Pumpkin Smash Soccer Tourney and the Pumpkin Run 5-kilometer fun run.
More information about this year’s pumpkin walk and other North Logan Pumpkin Days developments, I would suggest checking out the website.