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Teams Frankie, Legit and the Butternut Bouncers? Not rock bands — they’re pumpkin launchers

October 31st, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

What to do with pumpkins after the Halloween romp? You toss them, of course.

Photos & story by D. Whitney Smith

NORTH LOGAN — A mound of softening pumpkins laying in Elk Ridge Park, just days after the 2011 Pumpkin Walk came to a close, caused staff members of the city recreation department to ask themselves, “What to do we do with all those pumpkins?”

Each year the city hosts an annual Pumpkin Walk as part of the autumn festivities leading up to Halloween. North Logan Public Works Director Alan Luce said this and other events have caused various city employees and committee members to work to build more interest recreation events.

“The Pumpkin Walk is very well established,” Luce said. “They got it down to a science — they bring in 60,000 people every year to the Pumpkin Walk — so, what we’re trying to do, though, is create more of a Pumpkin Days series of events going on the entire month.”

Planners and committee members for the Pumpkin Walk discussed what kinds of events could be added to this year’s attractions, Luce said, and the first annual “pumpkin toss” was born.

Engineering students from USU, their family members and members of the community gathered in Elk Ridge Park at 1 p.m. Saturday to watch, as three different teams of mechanical engineers set up their pumpkin-launching artillery.

“We just talked to the department of mechanical engineering,” Luce said. “They have this club that’s set up, and so I threw the idea out to the department and Dallin (Jackson) got in touch with me. And he said ‘Absolutely.’”

Jackson is president of the USU chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and one of the head coordinators for the event. Luce said rules and regulations were drawn up to ensure safety and make sure the surrounding homes would not be within firing range.

The Pumpkin Toss was advertised within the mechanical engineering department, Jackson said, and several students came forward to participate. Area businesses, such as Cal-Ranch and Home Depot, sponsored the teams, and Walmart, Best Buy and Golden Corral sponsored some of the prizes.

“They sponsored every single one of these (machines),” Jackson said. There were cost and size limits placed on the machines, he said. “They’re no more than $100 each.”

The three teams each consisted of roughly four to eight team members. Two teams, Team Frankie and The Butternut Bouncers, developed their own renditions of a popular pumpkin-launching contraption inspired by a medieval mechanism called a trebuchet, which uses a floating arm and counterweights to create enough momentum to fire pumpkins long distances.

The third team, which was called Team Legit, won the prize for most creative, because creators deviated from the norm by making a large slingshot, with bungee cords that created thrust with tension rather than counterweight. All three teams generate cheers and applause from the audience, by showing off their creations.

“I’m hoping that — what we’re thinking is — this is going to be an annual event, hopefully,” Jackson said. “And then these guys can have a whole year to figure this out, rather than a couple months.”

The crowd consisted of more than 200 people, including dozens of young children who came to watch the high-flying pumpkins soar through the air. Luce said at the end of the event the kids would have a chance to throw tinier pumpkins, by hand.

Suzette Tyger, wife of Team Frankie member Tony Tyger, was in the crowd with the couple’s daughter Julia to show support for her husband’s team. “She’s loving this,” Tyger said about her daughter. “This is the first time I’ve seen this — it’s pretty cool.”

Other family members and friends of the mechanically inclined participants were in the crowd, including supporters from Heber City and Salt Lake City.

“I just barely heard about it yesterday, “said Corey Buchanan, younger brother of Team Frankie member Clinton Buchanan, of Heber City. “It sounds pretty fun. I’d like to do something like that.”

The Butternut Bouncers were the final competitors to arrive on scene and set up their trebuchet. Even though they were late, last-minute preparations led to a first-place finish. The team won the prize for farthest pumpkin launched, with a 165-foot shot.

All teams had bouts with misfires and vertical shots that had team members scattering to avoid being hit by rogue pumpkins. Members of Team Legit had to think on their toes when they experienced unexpected complications with faulty equipment.

“What’s really fascinating is the education it’s giving (the students),” said Vince Julian, friend and mentor of Team Legit’s Colin Martin. “I could care less if they fail, but they’re out there trying. They’re putting what they’re learning to use.”

Julian also said the camaraderie between team members, not just on Team Legit but all teams, was evident throughout the competition. Teamwork was necessary in organizing on-the-spot efforts to improve the performance of each machine, he said.

“I think it went really well,” Jackson said. “We had some that really, really far. The prizes are, we’re giving them Walmart gift cards and Best Buy gift cards.”


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