Punkin Chunkin coming west to Bridgeville in 2007

By Mike McClure

Bridgeville Commission President Joe Conaway announced during Monday night's commission meeting that the World Championship Punkin Chunkin event will move to the Bridgeville area in 2007. According to Conaway, the international event which draws 40,000 to 45,000 people each year will stay in Sussex County despite one Maryland town's attempt to draw it away from the area. "We didn't think it should go to Maryland," said Conaway. "It just kind of seemed we should push to get that done. All of Sussex County will benefit from the proximity of this major tourist event coming to Bridgeville." Punkin Chunkin will take place one last time in the Millsboro area this year (Nov. 3-5) before moving to the Bridgeville area in 2007. The new location of the event is the Dale Wheatley farm, located three miles east of town and a mile west of the intersection of routes 18 and 404. "We have reached a long-term agreement with the town officials and land owners in Bridgeville," Punkin Chunkin Association President Frank Shade said. "We started searching for this location five years ago after we learned the site in Millsboro had been sold for development." Shade added that the new location will provide two roads for ingress and egress as well as ample parking. The town, which owns 126 acres of land adjacent to the Wheatley farm for its new spray irrigation system, went into negotiation with Wheatley Farms and owner Dale Wheatley for additional land for its spray irrigation needs. The town is now under contract with Wheatley for the 1,000 to 1,100 acres of farmland which covers over a mile from point to point. Conaway said he bumped into Shade after the town reached an agreement with Wheatley. Shade indicated he had already spoken with Wheatley about the possibility of using the land for Punkin Chunkin.

"Our current location is approximately 285 acres, and the new farm has close to 1,000," said Shade. "The new land allows a safe shot in excess of a mile and it is only a short time until one of these monster machines throws aƔpunkin' the mythical mile." Conaway said the Punkin Chunkin facility will be located near Rt. 404, the furthest point from the town's spray irrigation site. Event organizers are also talking to the town and the county about the possibility of having an overnight campground onsite during the festival. "Nothing has been approved for that yet, but we're hoping we will be able to work something out," Shade said. "Meanwhile, there will be plenty of lodging available in Seaford and Bridgeville. For those who want to combine the "Chunk" with a beach vacation, the drive will be only 20 minutes from the Lewes, Dewey Beach, and Rehoboth Beach areas." Conaway called the addition of the November event a great addition to the town's existing events, the Apple-Scrapple Festival in October and Christmas in Bridgeville in December. Commission members said another one of the benefits of the event is that some of the proceeds go to charity. The Punkin Chunkin Association also awards 21 scholarships to high school seniors in Sussex County. "I was amazed at how much they give to charity," Commissioner Margaret Sipple said. Commissioner Pat Correll said the organization will also provide money for whatever town services it uses. The commission voted unanimously in favor of allowing the land to be used for Punkin Chunkin. Shade said the new site will allow the organization to raise additional money for the charities and scholarship program. The land rental will also remain at $1 per year (the same as in Millsboro). "We are truly grateful for the generosity of the Bridgeville community and the Wheatley family," said Shade. The 2006 event will be at the Millsboro site which is located at the intersection of Sussex 305 and 306 (Hollyville Road and Harmony Cemetery Road). For more information visit www.punkinchunkin.com or call the Punkin Chunkin Association office at 684-8196 or Shade at 854-5382.

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