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Pumpkin festival visitors get lunch and a launch

October 19, 2003|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

Pumpkins sailed through the air to children's shouts of delight Saturday on the back lawn at Renfrew Park during the 11th Annual Renfrew Pumpkin Festival. Families also carved pumpkins, made scarecrows and enjoyed a perfect autumn day.

The admission fee included face painting, a horse-drawn hayride, corn maze, petting zoo, live music, pumpkin taxi, pumpkin chunkin' and a lunch of soup, bread and apple cider.

The pumpkin chunkin' area, located safely away from other activites, swarmed with children waiting to launch a pumpkin at a cardboard castle about 400 feet away.

Dr. Garrett Blanchet of Waynesboro, a physician at Mont Alto Family Practice, built the pumpkin-hurling trebuchet in 2000 at Conca Woodworking with the help of friends and sponsors, and local donations.

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"It was a community effort," he said.

A trebuchet is a 10th-century Muslim invention which was employed during siege warfare in medieval Europe to knock down castle walls, Blanchet said.

The trebuchet used Saturday is a 1/15 scale model. A full-sized trebuchet was a 30-ton machine made of logs and capable of hurling a 250-pound stone.

The tall trebuchet is set by a tractor pulling a cord. A pumpkin is placed in an 11-foot-long green sling and, when the chain that acts as a trigger is pulled, the pumpkin is hurled in the air at the target. A yellow steel box filled with water acts as counterweight.

To the delight of the crowd, a trumpet was blown each time a pumpkin was launched. By noon, the castle looked like a jumble of cardboard boxes.

"We hit it a few times," Blanchet said, noting that the trebuchet seemed to be shooting to the right. He and his helpers adjusted the trough to re-aim the pumpkins.

Teagan Russ, 4, said, "It was fine," after launching a pumpkin for the first time. She and her father, Glenn Russ of Waynesboro, took the hayride and ate lunch at the festival. "I liked the pumpkin bread best," Teagan said.

Andrew Broas, 4, launched a pumpkin with Josh Neumann, 11, and Jared Neumann, 10, of Thurmont, Md. "I fell back," Andrew said. "It went boom and it blasted."

Jared fell back when the three pulled the chain, and Josh went down on one knee, because "it was easier than I thought," he said.

The Neumann brothers attended the festival with their mother, Faith Neumann, and Andrew attended with his mother, Cindy Broas of Waynesboro.

After his second pumpkin launch of the day, Connor Shepherd, 7, said, "It was fun. I would've hit (the castle) but it went sideways." The St. Andrew School student attended with his sister, Kathleen Shepherd, 3, and his mother, Lee Fitzpatrick of Waynesboro. "We watched and ate hot dogs," Lee Fitzpatrick said.

Taylor Steeves, 9, said the chain was "hard to pull, that's why I fell down." The fourth grader, who came to the festival with her mother, Terri Gearity of Waynesboro, said her pumpkin came "very close" to the target.

Profits from the event support the Renfrew Institute and the Renfrew Farm Park, Blanchet said. A member of the Renfrew Institute's board of directors, Blanchet said from 8,000 to 9,000 school children visit Renfrew each year to learn about ecology and local history.

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