Smashing (and launching) pumpkins in Mundelein
Mundelein's annual pumpkin drop combines physics with environmentalism.
It also offers children the pure pleasure of beating a pumpkin to a pulp with a baseball bat and the thrill of seeing pumpkins catapulted down a sled hill.
The event, held Sunday afternoon at Keith Mione Community Park, has become something of a tradition.
Prior to the launch, children rolled pumpkins down a hill then smashed them to pieces with aluminum bats.
The centerpiece of the event, however, was the trebuchet dubbed Big Red — a massive catapult built by Mundelein High School students, under the aegis of school physics teachers.
This was the fourth year for the event, which has won an award from the National Recreation & Park Association.
"It started because we wanted to have a fun, free, recyclable, sustainable activity in the fall," said Mary Priller, marketing specialist with the Mundelein Park & Recreation District.
After the event, the pumpkins were gathered, to be composted and used by the Prairie Crossing community to help grow plants.
"The whole idea is to do something green with your pumpkin," Priller said, adding that the trebuchet is built with recycled parts.
Big Red lived up to its billing, propelling one of the pumpkins as far as 290 feet. About a dozen Mundelein High School students built the trebuchet roughly four years ago.
Asked about its educational value, physics teacher Matt Farmer said, "The students had to do some physics in building it and deciding how to build it. And then estimating how far we can shoot things with it."
Along with Big Red, there was a mini-catapult fashioned by Mundelein Boy Scout Troop 388.
"We were on a campout and the boys saw a video of a trebuchet," said Troop Leader Doug Coup. "The boys have learned a lot."
This was the troop's first attempt at shooting pumpkins — they used basketballs prior to the event.
The catapult was effective, except for a few false starts when the pumpkins flew backward in the direction of the crew.
Spectators lined up along the slope enjoyed the spectacle, including Libertyville resident Laurie Comilla, who brought her daughters Grace, 8, and Alida, 7.
"I like when they launch it really high and then it splatters all over the place when it touches the ground," Alida said.
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