I was thrilled to receive a message from the Yahoo! Contributor Network team that Yahoo! needed someone to cover an event for them. As a longtime contributor and living in Maryland, with the event being held in Delaware, I was selected as a person who might be a good fit for the assignment. I was given just a week’s notice for the assignment, which was held over the weekend of November 6th, but jumped on the chance nonetheless. I was also made well aware of the fact that I was the guinea pig in this sort of collaborative effort between Yahoo! and Associated Content (now Yahoo! Contributor Network), and would be the first Yahoo! contributor to have this sort of opportunity.
The gig was the 25th World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’, an event where teams build air cannons, catapults and other massive devices to shoot pumpkins as far off as they can. It’s not a small blip on the radar either, the Discovery Channel was on hand to film two specials that they will air during Thanksgiving weekend, and it was estimated that over 100,000 spectators came over the course of the weekend.
With my official press credential around my neck, I had full access to visit the competition teams and interview the individuals involved. For a fair amount of time, I ended up right alongside the hosts of Mythbusters as they were filming their coverage of the event, and had to remind myself to stop focusing so much on them and get back to paying attention to the competition itself.
Of course, the featured article placement on one of Yahoo!’s sites wasn’t a bad incentive either, and I received a high paying assignment.
I was also able to stand just feet away from the machines as they launched their competition shots, while the general crowd had to stand back some 50 or more feet for their view. That was an exhilarating and unique opportunity, although some forewarning about the ferocity of the noise produced when an air cannon shoots off would have been nice.
Being so close to the machines also led to an interesting scramble for a few seconds, when a catapult misfired its shot, sending it straight up into the air instead of down the field. Not wearing a helmet, as the team members were, myself and the other individuals close by had to run around to avoid having an 8 pound pumpkin come crashing down onto our heads from several hundred feet in the air. Luckily, I was able to avoid the crashing projectile, although I did get some pumpkin carnage splattered on my clothing as it fell about 10 or 15 feet to my side.
I was also terribly unequipped for the muddy environment. The area that fans were in was mostly covered with straw and grass, so the mud wasn’t too bad. But in the area where the teams and devices were lined up, the field was basically a mud pit. My black shoes took the worst of that one.
Getting my hands on the actual press pass was also a bit of a chore, as the parking lot and ticketing staffers didn’t know a thing about it. Parking itself wasn’t pretty either, as it took cars over an hour just to wind their way down a single file line of traffic into the lot. After finally parking my car, I weaseled my way inside without a pass or a ticket, and eventually hitched a ride with security on a golf cart to the credentialing booth, conveniently located all the way in the back of the field, hidden by view, and out of walking distance.
So there were a few minor hiccups along the way, but by and large, it was an excellent experience delving into the world of live event coverage and journalism, firsthand reporting, and more. I wouldn’t take anything back from the trip, and hopefully look forward to being able to be a part of more feature assignments and event coverage for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
In addition to the photos attached to this article, you can view a much larger collection of my photos of the event on Flickr, as well as a sampling of videos of the event on YouTube, to see some of the machines in action and take in the rest of the scene from the Punkin’ Chunkin’ event and festival.