Photos: Cold rain can’t squash Pumpkin Launch 2021

On Saturday at Monroe County fairgrounds, a pumpkin was flung downrange by the trebuchet of team Tetanus Express.

It landed 987 feet away. That was a record for Bloomington’s Pumpkin Launch.

Just an hour before the noon event started, a steady drizzle was falling, driven by a 10-mph wind out of the north. That made the 50-degree temperature feel even colder.

But right around midday the rain subsided. A bit of blue sky peeked through.

It was just in time for Bloomington parks and recreation program coordinator Bill Ream to queue up the three entrants in this year’s Pumpkin Launch. They each had four throws in the distance competition, and another four rounds with scoring based on accuracy.

Competing this Saturday besides Tetanus Express were Team Fahrfunflinger and The Fist of God.

The name of the third team comes from the source of their trebuchet’s counterweight. To build their device, Boy Scout Troop 462, hosted by Nativity parish on the southeast side of Indianapolis, used some concrete slabs salvaged from a renovation project at the church. In their previous life, the chunks of concrete served as a foundation for the altar.

The Fahrfunflinger device is not a trebuchet. It’s a big white cylinder that launches its payload by releasing stretched bands of rubber. That makes it basically a slingshot that blasts a pumpkin out the the end of a tube.

More photos after the jump. Continue reading “Photos: Cold rain can’t squash Pumpkin Launch 2021”

Photos: 9th annual Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Fest continues Saturday, Sunday

Hot air balloons filled the horizon on Friday afternoon and evening at the Monroe County fairgrounds.

The 9th annual Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Fest continues Saturday and Sunday.

The balloon fest’s Facebook page includes a complete list of activities—helicopter rides, giant kites, woodcarving, marionettes, carnival games, ice cream, fried pies, elephant ears, food truck fare, and hot air balloons!

On Friday night, Indianapolis-based funk band, The Indigos belted out “Love Shack” by The B-52’s among other favorites, in front of Tweety Bird and Sylvester-shaped hot air balloons. On Saturday it will be The Acre Brothers who entertain the crowd.

More photos after the jump. Continue reading “Photos: 9th annual Kiwanis Indiana Balloon Fest continues Saturday, Sunday”

Opinion | Flying, falling pumpkins: A perfect pandemic pick-me-up

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On Saturday starting at noon, a few dozen pumpkins were sent flying several hundred feet down the field at the Monroe County fairgrounds.

The grass expanse, littered with shards of busted orange gourds, marked the return of Pumpkin Launch, hosted by the city of Bloomington’s parks and recreation department.

Four teams competed on Saturday—three with trebuchet-style launchers and a fourth with a sling-shot powered device.

The long-running event was rained out last year. Saturday’s skies started off overcast, but rain was never a threat. And by early afternoon, the sun had started to nudge the temperature upward from 50 F degrees. The wind was blowing out of the northeast at around 10 mph, so it was a brisk but still pleasant day.

The mark of the COVID-19 pandemic on this year’s event was clear. Orange pumpkin-shaped social distancing “circles”—complete with a green stem—were painted out in the spectator area to keep groups of people spread out. Instructions from the event staff were clear: If you go outside your group’s pumpkin circle, make sure you’re wearing a mask.

The number of cars was limited to 75 to keep the crowd size down.

Scoring for the day’s effort was strictly objective.

Distances—from the pumpkin launchers to the point of impact and from there to the targets—were measured with a GPS device. An old-fashioned measuring wheel was pressed into service when the more modern gadget fritzed out briefly.

In the day’s earlier of the two sessions, the first effort from Tetanus Express measured out at 903 feet, the longest launch for that round.

Also, objectively scored, Pumpkin Launch was great fun.

The parks and recreation staff who put the event together, which included community coordinators Sarah Owen and Bill Ream, delivered a couple of hours of pure delight and refreshing distraction from the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading “Opinion | Flying, falling pumpkins: A perfect pandemic pick-me-up”