’Tis the season for – a pumpkin catapult?

aramos@newsobserver.comDecember 23, 2013 

Tommy Abbott of Apex poses with his pumpkin catapult, which he uses as a Christmas display.

ALIANA RAMOS — aramos@newsobserver.com

— Some people use reindeer, inflatable snow globes or painted wooden candy canes to decorate their front lawns during Christmas.

Tommy Abbott uses a 12-foot punkin chunker and 13,000 lights.

His display is so bright that it affects traffic in front of his house on the 500 block of New Hill Olive Chapel Road.

“People will drive speeding through here, and I’ve seen people come to a dead stop,” Abbott said. “You see them taking pictures. I’ve even had people pull into my driveway.”

Abbott, 35, works as a produce company manager by day, but he tools around in his garage building a pumpkin catapult in his spare time.

The “punkin chunkin” was featured Thanksgiving Day on the Discovery Channel as part of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin competition coverage. Abbott’s team was profiled during the special.

Re-runs of the episode havebeen airing on Discovery’s Science Channel.

Abbott’s team placed third in the Adult Centrifugal Human Power division, which focuses on force that moves away from the center. Abbott’s catapult, called “00,” is powered by a bicycle.

“The General” and “00” are named after cars in “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show and 1997 movie, some of Abbott’s favorites. His team’s name – Team Hazard – is also a reference to the show.

“I got a theme going,” Abbott joked.

He has been competing for about five years, but this was the first year he used this particular catapult, and it still needs some tweaking. The pumpkin traveled a mere 82.6 feet, well below the 1,400 and 1,700 feet Abbott is used to getting with “The General.”

“It’s an unusual hobby,” Abbott said. “Not that many people do it, but most people have heard about it.”

The World Championship Punkin Chunkin competition started in 1986 with a group of friends and has grown to more than 70 teams, according to its website. There are more than a dozen divisions by age, gender and type of catapult, including theatrical and air cannon.

Winners get a trophy and a donation to a charity in their name. Most importantly, Abbott said, they get bragging rights.

“The General” or “00” usually get an annual viewing at the championships in Delaware.

But three years ago, Abbott decided to start using the machines to decorate his lawn during Christmas. The height of the machine is perfect for displaying lights, he said.

This year, the chunker is holding up a Christmas tree made from light strings.

“I started out with just a few (lights) the first year,” he said. “Then people just started randomly dropping them off at my house. It just kept growing.”

He puts up the lights the day after Thanksgiving, and he takes them down the day after Christmas.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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