Gourds fly in Bethel with pumpkin trebuchet

by Ben Matheson on November 6, 2013

Less than 48 hours after trick or treating, the sugar buzz should be mostly worn off. But there’s still thrills to be had in the form of launching pumpkins through the air.

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On a wet Saturday afternoon Ricky Ramos with Bethel Parks and Recreation positions the launch arm of a tall wooden catapult like device.
“I guess it’s a modern trebuchet”

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That is the medieval siege weapon that was used to break down castle walls with flying rock. Or in this case, it’s tossing rotting pumpkins in a skatepark. 9-year-old Kely Twito explains the basics.

“They’re shooting off pumpkins. They put it in a bag and shoot it off.”

With an old jack-o-lantern in the canvas bag, Ramos begins cranking down on a hand winch. And after a short countdown from the gathered crowd, Ramos pulls the firing pin.

The 15-foot-arm swings an arc and launches the gourd a good 30 yards before it explodes on the concrete with a satisfying splat.

Ramos downloaded instructions online built the trebuchet last year. He says it’s ultimately a simple device.

“The arm helps it goes farther, but the counterweight helps to move the arm faster. We have about 316 pounds in there,” said Ramos.

The physics of the device and the best throw are an approximation for these purposes. The choice of pumpkin is a big part of how it performs.

“For show, they’re the smaller ones, they go a lot farther. Last year we used water melons and they ended going the whole length of the skate park and hitting the fence,” said Ramos.

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