Pumpkins Fly From Catapults on the North Field

Photo by Giancarlo Sepulveda

Pumpkins rained down from a bright blue autumn sky Sunday afternoon as several student organizations came together on the College’s North Field to fling round, orange squash from homemade catapults in a competition modeled on the Discovery Channel’s annual “Punkin Chunkin” television special.

The event was the brainchild of Lindsey Gray, a junior and founding member of Ramapo’s Females in STEM organization, which hosted the event.

“Phi Kappa Sigma, we have Computers and Technology, International Student Organization, SGA, Pre-Med/Pre-Health and the bass fishing team as well,” Gray said, listing the clubs which responded to her group’s proposal and helped facilitate the event by contributing their own pumpkin-hurling siege weapons, or by turning out to cheer on the competitors and serve hot chocolate, donuts and brownies.

Four catapults were entered in the contest. The first in line, built by Phi Kappa Sigma, was the largest: dwarfing its competition, PKS’ machine was spray-painted a dark green and sported a modified American flag bearing the fraternity’s name in lieu of the traditional 50 stars. Next to it stood the catapults, “This is a Joke” and “There are No Rules,” while on the far end of the field stood the final contraption, constructed and operated by a group of four friends deeming themselves the Chunkaholics.

The Chunkaholics’ catapult stood out from the rest, its unique look setting it apart: it utilized a repurposed weightlifting set in its design. The team made last-minute adjustments to the catapult before the competition began.

“We had midterms all week, so we had to cram it into two days to build, overall, and we’re down to the wire. We finished 10 minutes before we had to drive here,” Alex Clark, a senior and member of the Chunkaholics, said.

Sophomore Mike Stellitano, Scholarship Chair and New Member Educator of Phi Kappa Sigma, ensured his organization’s participation after Females in STEM reached out to the fraternity. As a member of the contest’s committee, Stellitano felt it would be inappropriate to involve himself in the competition. However, he was able to describe his team’s construction process and the limits set in place by Public Safety, who supervised the event.

“It took about a full week to get everything down pat – it took them I’d say about a week to get the weighting down,” Stellitano said. “There was a lot of tough rules set down by the school, to limit how powerful they could be – and I don’t blame them, either. So we did what we could with the rules, and we think we built a pretty badass catapult.”

After each team had finished setting up their catapults, the contest began. A member of Phi Kappa Sigma handed pumpkins to each competing team as Gray spoke, stressing safety and explaining the rules: each team would fire their catapult twice, and the machine with the longest range would be declared the winner. $150 in gift cards would go to the winning team, while a separate prize of $50 would go to the crowd favorite, determined by a poll conducted throughout the contest.

Phi Kappa Sigma fired first, their catapult launching a pumpkin high into the blue afternoon sky. It fell to the earth with a satisfying thud, breaking into chunks as attendees cheered. The other catapults followed in similar fashion, although none quite reached the distance achieved by the fraternity. After a short delay, PKS was declared the winner of both the competition and the crowd favorite vote.

“It’s an entertaining and fun event – very festive,” Stellitano said. The competition, the first of its kind at Ramapo, will likely take place next year.