Durham brothers are 'Punkin Chunkin'

Posted November 24, 2011

— For most people, pumpkins are used for carving or pie filling. But Marc and Tony Banka, of Durham, look at pumpkins a little differently. 

The brothers are professional pumpkin throwers. They compete annually in the Punkin Chunkin competition held at Royal Farms in Bridgeville, Delaware. 

"In Delaware, we have sort of a reputation," Marc Banka said while loading their device, Pumpkin Slayer, for a practice run on a friend's farm in Apex. 

Pumpkin Slayer set a world record in 2009 in the human-powered division, which means a person has to create the energy that the machine uses to propel the pumpkin, by throwing a pumpkin more than 1,900 feet. 

Pumpkin Slayer Durham brothers chunk pumpkins

"It comes out like a bullet," Marc Banka said. 

How does the Pumpkin Slayer work?

The decision to build a device that shoots pumpkins started with Marc Banka. After hearing about a local contest in Youngsville in 1998, he contacted his brother about building an entry. The idea just grew and so did the relationship between them. 

The Bankas, who have backgrounds in engineering and mechanics, say they have deliberately not kept track of how many hours or how much money they have spent working on Slayer over the past decade. They are constantly making tweaks and improving on Slayer's design.

Pumpkin Slayer Durham brothers throw pumpkins for fun

Tony Banka said the competition at Punkin Chunkin is always getting better, so they work hard to step up Slayer's mechanics in hopes of topping their 2009 record. They try to test revisions several times a year at the farm in Apex. If they can't find pumpkins, they use bowling balls, Marc Banka said. 

Although this year's Pumpkin Chunkin event was held on Nov. 2-4, the Discovery Channel and SCIENCE will simulcast a competition special on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m.

The annual event, which benefits charitable organizations including St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, has categories for human-powered chunkin like that done by the Bankas and for machines using motors, air power and spinning propulsion. The concept is simple: launch a pumpkin averaging 8 to 10 pounds as far as possible.

When Slayer isn't competing or making practice runs in Apex, Marc Banka keeps it in his backyard. 


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  • hallerobin Nov 25, 2011

    "wouldn't it be better to apply this creativity to something that would actually benefit mankind, rather than waste food resources? "

    Hey carolnc: a share of the proceeds is earmarked for charitable donation. This year's beneficiaries were:
    Autism Foundation
    Bless Our Children
    the local volunteer fire department
    ChildHelp (child victims of abuse and assaut)
    Home of the Brave (homeless veterans)
    Meals on Wheels St. Baldrick's (childhood cancer) St. Jude's Children's Hospital Research Center

    So, yeah... I'd call that benefiting a large cross-section of mankind.

  • dryjr Nov 25, 2011

    It's called a HOBBY people lighten up. I,m sure you do nothing but work 24hrs. a day.

  • fayncmike Nov 25, 2011

    We need more moronic pastimes. How about professional ice cube chewing. I bet some would find it fascinating.

  • NoRespect Nov 25, 2011

    Tossing a (special) pumpkin anywhere from 2000 to 4000 feet is just amazing to watch! The engineering and creativity that goes into those machines is incredibly inventive. Lots of fun...

  • jennifermariekirk Nov 25, 2011

    Carolnc- people on other tv shows get paid to use their "creativity". Does that benefit mankind, too? This is a job for these guys. These days, having a job benefits mankind.

  • momnextdoor Nov 24, 2011

    Professional?? they get paid to do this? wouldn't it be better to apply this creativity to something that would actually benefit mankind, rather than waste food resources? (I guess they don't know what it's like to be hungry) btw, they aren't good ole NC boys, they are from MI

  • hlpulley Nov 24, 2011

    Good ole boys from N.C., thats great,but wait a minute,how could they possibly do that without the governments help and a billion dollars in stimulas money? After all Americans are to lazy to work, thats what the President said.

  • vraptor Nov 24, 2011

    Cool show. I watch it every year. I will watch for these guys. I think a women's team won of the categories last year.

    Pretty funny stuff.

    They use a very dense pumpkin so that it will not shatter when shot. But they explode when they land...

    Would it not be funny to take one of those huge 60 foot air cannons to a war zone. It would probably scare the bleep out of the enemy looking at it. Or better yet. Rain pumpkins on them. The air cannons are approaching a mile in distance.

  • kampercam Nov 24, 2011

    I just slayed some pumpkin pie.

  • kawasaki333 Nov 24, 2011

    It's interesting to watch and Punkin Chunkin comes on 2nite starting at 6:30 on the Science Channel, 193 on Dish