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Tag Archives: seasonal travel

Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

8 hrs.

Courtesy World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association

The 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event in Bridgeville, Del., takes place Nov. 2-4.

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … well, if you’re in Bridgeville, Del., this weekend, it’s probably an 8- to 10-pound pumpkin that’s been launched into the wild blue yonder by a catapult, air cannon or other mechanical contraption.

It’s all part of the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event, Nov. 2–4. With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, it’s also our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

“It’s the combination of creativity and the oddity of it,” said John Huber, president of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA), of the event’s appeal. “It’s problem-solving, it’s creative thinking, it’s artistic. You look at these machines and you just go, ‘wow’.”

Those machines include catapults powered by ropes and garage-door springs, high-speed centrifugal launchers and cannons that feature massive tanks of compressed air and barrels stretching 100 feet or more. 

Each one is the result of countless hours of research, construction and pre-competition testing. “Everyone who competes has built something from scratch,” said Daniel Collins, part of Team Chucky — which currently holds the world record in the Adult Torsion (rope-powered) Catapult category, with a launch of 3,636.39 feet.

“People spend an inordinate amount of time doing this,” he told NBC News. “It becomes an obsession.”

Courtesy World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association

The machines used in this event include catapults, high-speed centrifugal launchers and cannons.

That obsession is apparently rather widespread. “We have farmers to dentists to chemical engineers,” said Huber, who happens to be a nuclear engineer. Not surprisingly, perhaps, he’s also a competitor, whose team — Team Hypertension — has built a spring-loaded catapult that sits on a 14,000-pound trailer and generates 30,000 pounds of force.

“We’ve invested $75,000 in this thing and it’s just to throw a pumpkin,” he said.

It all comes together on a field at Royal Farms in Bridgeville, where the competitors — 115 this year, says Huber — set up along a mile-long firing line. Some of the launchers are so big they arrive on flatbed tractor-trailers and have to be assembled on site.

At that point, it’s all about winching ropes, stretching springs, aiming cannon barrels and loading slings, buckets and barrels with the appropriately-plump projectile. Firing one at a time across an open field, the results are tallied by ATV-riding spotters, who presumably manage to avoid the incoming ordnance.

“They measure the point of impact,” said Huber. “Trust me, with these distances, the pumpkins leave a hell of a crater.”

Courtesy Joanne Coward

Team Chucky currently holds the world record in the Adult Torsion (rope-powered) Catapult category, with a launch of 3,636.39 feet.

Meanwhile, back behind the firing line — and protected by a high backstop — spectators can cheer on their favorites, enjoy live music and browse booths selling food, crafts and clothing. There’s also a chili cook-off and pageant competitions for ages 4 to 18-plus.

It’s all in good fun, but also for a good cause. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the WCPCA donates a large share of the proceeds from the event to several charities and scholarship programs. With 75,000 to 100,000 spectators over the course of the three-day event, Huber says those donations run to the “hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.”

As for this year’s event, it’s expected to go on despite any after-effects of Hurricane Sandy and with the usual degree of friendly competition. Collins, for example, has set his sights, not on his fellow catapulters, but on the biggest guns in the game: the air cannons, one of which holds the overall world record of 4,483.51 feet.

“They used to laugh at us but last year we beat 44 percent of them,” he said. “Now they’re looking over their shoulders. It’s only a matter of time.”

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him on Twitter.

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Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin world title

2 hrs.

Courtesy World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association

The 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event in Bridgeville, Del., takes place Nov. 2-4.

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a … well, if you’re in Bridgeville, Del., this weekend, it’s probably an 8- to 10-pound pumpkin that’s been launched into the wild blue yonder by a catapult, air cannon or other mechanical contraption.

It’s all part of the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event, Nov. 2–4. With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, it’s also our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

“It’s the combination of creativity and the oddity of it,” said John Huber, president of the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA), of the event’s appeal. “It’s problem-solving, it’s creative thinking, it’s artistic. You look at these machines and you just go, ‘wow’.”

Those machines include catapults powered by ropes and garage-door springs, high-speed centrifugal launchers and cannons that feature massive tanks of compressed air and barrels stretching 100 feet or more. 

Each one is the result of countless hours of research, construction and pre-competition testing. “Everyone who competes has built something from scratch,” said Daniel Collins, part of Team Chucky — which currently holds the world record in the Adult Torsion (rope-powered) Catapult category, with a launch of 3,636.39 feet.

“People spend an inordinate amount of time doing this,” he told NBC News. “It becomes an obsession.”

Courtesy World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association

The machines used in this event include catapults, high-speed centrifugal launchers and cannons.

That obsession is apparently rather widespread. “We have farmers to dentists to chemical engineers,” said Huber, who happens to be a nuclear engineer. Not surprisingly, perhaps, he’s also a competitor, whose team — Team Hypertension — has built a spring-loaded catapult that sits on a 14,000-pound trailer and generates 30,000 pounds of force.

“We’ve invested $75,000 in this thing and it’s just to throw a pumpkin,” he said.

It all comes together on a field at Royal Farms in Bridgeville, where the competitors — 115 this year, says Huber — set up along a mile-long firing line. Some of the launchers are so big they arrive on flatbed tractor-trailers and have to be assembled on site.

At that point, it’s all about winching ropes, stretching springs, aiming cannon barrels and loading slings, buckets and barrels with the appropriately-plump projectile. Firing one at a time across an open field, the results are tallied by ATV-riding spotters, who presumably manage to avoid the incoming ordnance.

“They measure the point of impact,” said Huber. “Trust me, with these distances, the pumpkins leave a hell of a crater.”

Courtesy Joanne Coward

Team Chucky currently holds the world record in the Adult Torsion (rope-powered) Catapult category, with a launch of 3,636.39 feet.

Meanwhile, back behind the firing line — and protected by a high backstop — spectators can cheer on their favorites, enjoy live music and browse booths selling food, crafts and clothing. There’s also a chili cook-off and pageant competitions for ages 4 to 18-plus.

It’s all in good fun, but also for a good cause. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the WCPCA donates a large share of the proceeds from the event to several charities and scholarship programs. With 75,000 to 100,000 spectators over the course of the three-day event, Huber says those donations run to the “hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.”

As for this year’s event, it’s expected to go on despite any after-effects of Hurricane Sandy and with the usual degree of friendly competition. Collins, for example, has set his sights, not on his fellow catapulters, but on the biggest guns in the game: the air cannons, one of which holds the overall world record of 4,483.51 feet.

“They used to laugh at us but last year we beat 44 percent of them,” he said. “Now they’re looking over their shoulders. It’s only a matter of time.”

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him on Twitter.

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Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, New York

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12 haunted hotels that are home to ghosts and gastronomy

2 hrs.

Courtesy Otesaga Resort Hotel

For years, the 103-year-old Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, N.Y. was rumored to have paranormal activity.

Add ghost hunting to your fall travel itinerary by booking a stay at a haunted hotel. Far from the stuff of theme parks, each haunted hotel on our list has a storied past filled with ghost sightings sure to make your fall trip brag-worthy.

From sightings of the Lady in Red who roams The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and giggling ghostly girls at Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, N.Y., to a former whaling captain who wanders the halls at the Jared Coffin House in Nantucket, Mass., these haunted hotels are full of ghost stories, and they also boast spirited suppers.

Slideshow: See the list of 12 haunted hotels

To increase your chances of seeing a ghost, The Daily Meal has included which rooms are favored by these amicable apparitions so you can have the best odds of slumbering with spirits.

Otesaga Resort Hotel (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
For years, the 103-year-old Otesaga Resort Hotel was rumored to have paranormal activity. From 1920 to 1954, the hotel was the Knox School for Girls, a private girl’s school, and guests have reported hearing children playing and giggling in the third floor hallway. Voices have been heard in the Glimmerglass Room, apparitions have been seen walking hand-in-hand in period clothing, staff have heard their names being called from unseen sources and a security officer has heard people walking above him on the fifth floor. After a visit from Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters, the stories were found to be true, as the crew confirmed that the historic hotel is indeed haunted with “friendly spirits.” Guests should try chef Michael Gregory’s locally-sourced fare at The Hawkeye Bar Grill.

Also on The Daily Meal: The best places to celebrate Halloween

Jumby Bay (Jumby Bay Island, Saint John’s, Antigua)
Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort located on the private island of Jumby Bay, takes its name from “jumbie,” Antiguan colloquial for “playful spirit.” In Antiguan culture, it is considered taboo to pass by graveyards at night for fear of becoming entrapped by jumbies, spirits of people who have become trapped in a state of limbo or purgatory who remain near their grave sites until they have served enough time to earn a place in heaven. The small island of Jumby Bay has an old graveyard near the main beach dating back to the 1700s. After avoiding ghost sightings (or seeking them out), visitors can feast at The Estate House, a Spanish Colonial plantation that was once the centerpiece of the island’s sugar plantation and now serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine like a palm heart salad with garden greens, tomato, celery and passion fruit dressing.

Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort Golf Club (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
The 86-year-old Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort Golf Club may add some “spirit” to the vacations of guests who request to stay in a room in the resort’s historical main tower built in 1925, which has reportedly been known to experience friendly paranormal activity. The hotel is getting ghoulish this Halloween with a Spirits Menu at Marchand’s Bar and Grill, the Promenade Lounge, and Alfresco’s, which features the Graveyard Brew ($10), Pumpkin Spook ($12) and the Ghost-tini ($12).

La Posada de Santa Fe (Santa Fe, N.M.)
La Posada de Santa Fe dates to 1882, when a Santa Fe Trail merchant, Abraham Staab, built it as a three-story Victorian mansion for his family. When Staab’s wife, Julia, died in 1896 at the age of 52, her presence continued to live on in the property. Today, the Staab House at La Posada de Santa Fe retains its original structure and is home to a cozy bar and Suite 100, which used to be Julia’s bedroom. To honor her, the hotel staff makes sure to invite her to parties held in the house and greet her when they enter her bedroom. The resort recently appointed a new executive chef Carmen Rodriguez, and his Nana’s Mexican Chocolate Mousse, a recipe passed on from his grandmother, is a must-try.

The Homestead (Hot Springs, Va.)
Built in 1766, The Homesteadis one of the oldest resorts in America. As the story goes, in the early 1900s, a woman was set to be married at The Homestead, but on the day of her wedding her husband-to-be ran out and never returned. The bride became so distraught that she took her own life. Now, her spirit supposedly roams the 14th floor of the resort asking guests and staff for the time, with hopes that her groom will return. Guests of The Homestead resort can enjoy the sweet smells of fall at breakfast with the resort’s signature cinnamon donuts.

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Connecticut tourism gets boost from filmmaker Ken Burns

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s tourism industry is getting a boost from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

Burns announced Wednesday that he has partnered with a luxury tour group, Tauck Tours of Norwalk, on a redesigned eight-day tour of New England’s “hidden gems,” which will include a two-day stop in Hartford. The company said it added the Hartford stop at Burns’ urging.

Best known for his award-winning documentaries on the Civil War and baseball, Burns and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made the announcement at the Mark Twain House, which will be highlighted on the tour along with the home of 19th century abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

“The tourism industry employs about 110,000 people, generates more than $1 billion in state and local tax revenue and brings more than $11 billion in spending to our state,” Malloy said in a statement. “While our ‘Still Revolutionary’ marketing campaign is already paying dividends, the addition of this overnight stop in Hartford demonstrates that there is still much untapped potential for tourism in the coming years.”

The bus tour will run from June through the fall foliage season, and also include stops at Lexington, Concord, and Fenway Park in Massachusetts, a Shaker community in New Hampshire, the Green and White mountains, and at Burns’ studio in Walpole, N.H.

“My mission in making films has always been to explore who we are as Americans,” he said. “Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe had a similar goal, at a time when the experience and definition of ‘being an American’ was entirely dictated by the color of one’s skin. These two remarkable individuals asked difficult questions of their country, and we became a better place for it.” 

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5 spooky Halloween trips

Sarah Spagnolo of Travel + Leisure magazine shares locations for great Halloween deals, including a hotel in Maine that hosts its own jack-o’-lantern contest and the Colorado hotel that was the inspiration for Steven King’s “The Shining.”

Whether you prefer an innocent jack-o-lantern carving competition or an overnight at the hotel that inspired “The Shining,” we’ve got the Halloween-themed getaway for you.

Courtesy Rare Brick via Lark Hotels

The classic 9-room Captain Fairfield Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine is hosting a pumpkin carving contest this Halloween.

Captain Fairfield Inn, Kennebunkport, Maine
This classic 9-room inn a block from the Kennebunk River is hosting a pumpkin carving contest this Halloween. Pick up a pumpkin at nearby Patten’s Berry Farm and take it to the pumpkin carving station. The pumpkins will be displayed on Halloween night, when a panel of judges will select the winner. The prize is a free night’s stay to be used anytime between Oct. 2012 and the end of April 2013. Doubles from $159/night.


Also on Travel + Leisure: World’s most mysterious buildings

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo.
The inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, this hotel has an on-staff paranormal investigator who will take you on a five-hour ghost hunt—if you’re brave enough. There is a range of other ghost and history tours available, and the hotel puts on a Murder Mystery Dinner on Friday, Oct. 26, and a Shining Ball on Saturday, Oct. 27 ($89 per person). Doubles from $169/night.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando, Fla.
Book this package for a 3-night stay at Loews Royal Pacific Resort (on-site at Universal Studios Orlando), a 2-day ticket to both Universal Orlando theme parks, early park admission to Universal’s Islands of Adventure and one night admission to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, where you can experience mazes and haunted houses featuring “The Walking Dead: Dead Inside,” based on AMC’s series, and “Welcome to Silent Hill,” based on the video games and film franchise. From $609/adult ($203/night per adult).

Virginia Hotel, Cape May, N.J.
A restored 1879 landmark building just a half a block from the beach, the Virginia Hotel has cottages as well as rooms in the main house. Its Creepy Cape May package includes continental breakfast, two drinks at the on-site Ebbit Room, special Fat Witch treats and a Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour through the town’s Victorian streets—with a guide who will relate the paranormal findings of ghost writer Craig McManus along the way. Doubles from $140/night.

The Orlando on Third, Los Angeles
A recently renovated 95-guestroom boutique hotel near Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, The Orlando offers a “Holly-ween” package. It provides Bloody Brunch for two at the on-site restaurant, The Churchill, a personal fitting at costume store Trashy Lingerie, two tickets to the “Dia De Los Muertos Festival” at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Oct. 27 for anyone who books for Halloween night, and late-night transportation to and from the West Hollywood Halloween Festival. From $289/night.

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