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Punkin Chuckin’ festival could end

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST
Sara Heaton, of La Porte, Ind., measures the weight of pumpkins before launching them on the throwing machine Oct. 19 at the Morton Punkin Chunkin’ Contest near Pekin. Hundreds gathered for the event.
An air cannon fires a pumpkin at the Morton Punkin Chunkin’ Contest on Oct. 19 near Pekin. Organizers of the annual festival, during which participants hurl pumpkins across a field, are questioning if the event will go on.

PEKIN (AP) – The future of a central Illinois festival in which participants hurl pumpkins across a field is up in the air.

Crowds of spectators gathered Saturday to watch the annual Morton Punkin Chuckin’ Contest where machines and people fling pumpkins in different events, but questions about the venue and the overseeing committee have organizers worried if it was the festival’s last year, according to GateHouse Media Illinois newspapers.

“It’s not a traumatic concern, but it is a concern,” said Susan Pyles of the Morton Tourism Association, which helps put on the event.

The festival, which began in 1996, was already scaled back this year to 1 day from 2 after religious concerns about having the contest on a Sunday.

Pyles said finding a new location with enough space for parking and the machines – including air cannons that fling the pumpkins thousands of feet – is difficult. Also, she said the event’s organizing committee needs fresh members as some have been around since the committee was created 17 years ago.

“We love putting on Punkin Chuckin’ and we’re not complaining, but we need new people,” Pyles said.

It’s not the first time there have been worries about the future of the festival.

The event has been canceled three times in the past, once because a venue couldn’t be found and twice because of weather conditions.

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