Each year, hundreds of pumpkins lose their lives in the Punkin Chunkin World Championship in Dover, Delaware. But their sacrifice is not in vain: Science Channel films the annual event and airs the highlights a couple days after Thanksgiving. The official event was canceled this year (there was a kerfuffle over permits at the regular location), but the Chunk must go on, and so former Mythbusters Kari Byron and Tory Belleci got together with a group of Chunkers in New Hampshire for a weekend of experimental gourd-hurling. The resulting Punkin Chunkin: Superchunk! special will air Saturday, Nov. 29 at 8/7c on both Science Channel and Discovery.
TV Guide Magazine: So, how is this year's special different, exactly?
Kari Byron: It's sort of a best-of combined with a take-it-up-a-notch, because we're not only showing a countdown of the best moments we've had at Punkin Chunkin, we're also adding a bit of a twist. We're using the chunkers to become weapons of destruction.
Tory Belleci: Science Channel decided, "Let's keep the show going. We'll invite a handful of Chunkers, and we'll basically do a "greatest moments" interspersed with us and other people from Discovery, like the Moonshiners and Fast 'N' Loud guys, destroying things with pumpkins." There are so many crazy things Kari and I are doing: We're throwing pianos, we're throwing toilets, we try to throw a car...
TV Guide Magazine: "Try" being the operative word?
Belleci: Well, you'll see what happens.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you using the same machines to throw both pianos and pumpkins?
Byron: Oh, we are. We chose machines we thought could handle it — some of them are gigantic. Like, they clearly have the capacity to throw much more than a pumpkin. So we had to make a couple of adjustments, but the basics are there.
Belleci: There's one trebuchet we used that was about 40 feet tall and had a counterweight of 12,000 pounds. That team pulled an original design from ye olde times and recreated it.
Byron: We could actually storm a castle with it.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you guys have a favorite kind of chunker?
Byron: Oh I love the centrifugal machines. They are crazy. We didn't have one this year, because I think last year we pushed them all so far to the limit they couldn't take it this year, but that's my favorite. I rode in the back of one last year, and it was terrifying.
Belleci: We haven't done this yet, but I'm hoping next year they'll let us: I want to do rocket-powered pumpkins. So basically just a whole array of pumpkins we launch via attached rockets and see what happens there. Let's get modern!
TV Guide Magazine: Did you learn anything new this year?
Byron: Well this year because we were using these machines for purposes they generally aren't used for, there was a lot of problem-solving. A couple things went horribly wrong. But it was fun doing the trial and error. We've got that Mythbusters spirit where we like when things go wrong, so we can try to figure out how to make them go right. We enjoyed putting a different spin on it. With pumpkins, the worst thing that's going to happen is a pumpkin might fall apart in the air. But we tried to launch a car. There was a little bit more at stake.
Belleci: Over the years we've learned how far a pumpkin can fly, but we've never seen how much damage a pumpkin can do. So you're going to see what kind of damage you can do with a simple pumpkin.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the craziest thing that's happened during a Chunk?
Byron: For me, it was last year, when I was riding in the back of a centrifugal machine until it actually broke apart while I was inside of it, and it threw a rod 50 feet. [Laughs] It was such mayhem.
Belleci: I was standing next to one of the trebuchets, and one of the arms decided to break. [Laughs] And when you have something that wound up, pieces go everywhere. The crazy thing was, the guy who was cranking the arm down was literally right next to it, and he wasn't phased at all. He was just pissed his machine broke.
TV Guide Magazine: Does that sort of thing happen often?
Byron: Well, when you're taking machines to their limits, I mean, sometimes those pumpkins just go straight up into the air. You definitely have to be aware, because when they go up, you never know where they're coming down.
Belleci: And these machines are built by incredible engineers, but they're it's not like they're factory-tested. "These can withstand this much pressure and energy." The teams are building them and figuring it out as they go. Sometimes these things go wrong.
TV Guide Magazine: What was your favorite thing you chunked this go-round?
Belleci: The toilet.
Byron: That was your favorite?
Belleci: Yeah! We launched a porcelain toilet, and when it landed, it was just incredible.
Byron: I really enjoyed when we shot up a trailer with a pumpkin. That was pretty fun.
Belleci: Oh yeah, that was cool. Oh, and this was very exciting: I'm not going to tell you whether we succeeded or not, but they were trying to break the Guinness world record of chunking the largest pumpkin — over 1,000 pounds. I won't say whether we achieved it. The trebuchet we used was strong enough to throw the pumpkin, but I won't say whether we got the record.