Eight years ago, dentist Steve Seigars saw a NOVA episode on 12th-century trebuchets — and it changed his life. These giant catapult-like machines, once used to lay siege to medieval castles, are essentially first-class levers, like seesaws, with a counterweight on one end and a sling holding a projectile on the other. Today they’re used for pumpkin tossing competitions.
Seigars thought that building such a contraption could improve business at Yankee Farmer, the farm stand that he and his wife, Kathy, own on Route 31 in Greenfield, New Hampshire.
The result was “Yankee Siege,” a 55-foot-tall steel and red-oak timber frame on 10-foot wheels weighing 2,600 pounds each. When fired, the throwing arm hurls a pumpkin 600 feet toward a small “castle” on a distant hill.
Seigars was right: The crowds who came to see a 20-ton medieval implement of war lobbing squash increased pumpkin sales tenfold — and what began as a marketing scheme soon led to competitions. Yankee Siege has now taken first place four years running at the World Championships of Punkin’ Chunkin’ held each year in Delaware on the first weekend after Halloween. Last year, a 1,658-foot throw garnered the title — but didn’t break Yankee Siege’s own world record of 1,702 feet, attained in 2005.
Seigars is now developing a lightweight throwing arm to compete with smaller, more energy-efficient machines in the race to break the 2,000-foot barrier. The Holy Grail, however, is a one-mile throw, which could prove difficult in Greenfield. “We do have neighbors,” Kathy says.
171 Forest Road