AP NEWS

OH ... MY .... GOURD!

November 19, 2018

A crane hoists a 1,207-pound pumpkin up, up, up 80 feet into the air as the crowd watches outside the Wamesit Lanes in Tewksbury on Sunday afternoon.

TEWKSBURY -- Imagine this: A massive pumpkin dropped from the sky.

It’s an idea Donny McClaren Jr., owner of Wamesit Lanes, had for years, and one that came crashing down in the parking lot outside his family entertainment center on Route 38 on Sunday.

McClaren’s idea was to bring a smashing-good time to the community in an event that featured a 1,207-pound pumpkin dropped from a 100-foot-tall crane. In the end, the event secured $1,380 for the Wamesit Scholarship Fund.

It was an event that took some work to organize, according to Wamesit Marketing Director Fred Smith.

After some research, the ideal pumpkin was found at the Topsfield Fair’s annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off. In mid-October, a 1,207-pound pumpkin -- which finished in the contest’s top 10 -- was secured and delivered to Wamesit.

The original date for the colossal pumpkin drop was scheduled Oct. 27. However, high winds on that date created concerns on controlling where the pumpkin would land.

The event was postponed. The problem now was keeping this huge pumpkin in good health until the new drop date, set for Sunday.

“We babied the pumpkin,” Smith said. “We kept it warm, we kept it cool, we had it in the sun, we kept it under blankets. We cuddled it and hugged it and hoped it didn’t rot.”

The efforts paid off and on Sunday, the drop ensued.

This is how it worked: A hole was cut in the top of the pumpkin and 276 ping-pong balls, sold for $10 each, were stuffed inside. When it dropped from the crane, the giant gourd exploded, freeing the balls. The buyer of the ping-pong ball that ended up closest to a massive target laid below the pumpkin received 50 percent of the money collected.

In the end, the winner received $1,380. The remaining $1,380 went to the Scholarship Fund, used to help local high schoolers in their plans for higher education.

Smith described the pumpkin’s explosion as “massive.”

“You could feel it,” Smith said. “They said they could feel it and hear it in the kitchen.”

He added that, aside from the chunks that scattered across the parking lot, there was also some splatter from the pumpkin’s explosion.

“I definitely had some pumpkin on my glasses,” Smith said.

Roughly 1,200 people attended Sunday’s pumpkin drop, which organizers hope to make an annual event.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis.

AP RADIO
Update hourly