Last week a friend of mine shared a Facebook page with me and asked have you seen this? It was Farm Fling, Pumpkins will always fly in Sussex County skies. I knew exactly what this was going to be all about, now I just needed an invite. I asked how do I get in, I would love to go check this out and maybe write about the event. “I have one invite left and it is yours, don’t tell anyone” I said that would be no problem. So on a beautiful weekend when I would normally be fishing, I headed around the corner a piece, and found the field where it all started. There were catapults, trebuchets, and to my delight the big air cannon, old campers for targets in the back of the field and a old blue truck. I knew right away this was going to be much different, but just like the days of old. Something I have always heard about, but never experienced. I grabbed the cameras and made my way to the event area. There was a section for spectators and VIP only was allowed in the machine area. I of course wanted to get up close and personal, so I asked about covering the event for my site. I didn’t have to beg, borrow, or steal my way in and I had my DSF press pass just in case. I was introduced to Frank Payton III and he set me up with full access. He told me anytime today, just stop him for an interview. I walked around shooting pictures like a kid in a candy store. I have been to many of the other events, but never up close and personal with the machinery and their crews. This was extra special, some of these machines were the originals that were retired and reworked just for the farm fling, and so were some of the crews. Frank had guys with Go Pros and even a drone in the air to record this day, and I was doing my own version as well.
After taking a barrage of pictures and video, I wandered around talking with people and listening to everyone reminisce about the days of the originals. Folks were just beside themselves with excitement that not only were they able to launch bodacious orange berries to the sky, but that it was like it was in the beginning. The atmosphere was charged with laid back excitement, pure Sussex County. The scene was Americana at its finest, a farm, a field, families, friends, and neighbors all enjoying the day after a long week of work. The contraptions and fruit flinging through the air just made it that much more special. Irish Eyes had a tent set up for food. I visited them for some excellent chili and hot dogs, because that is what you eat in the middle of a field on a beautiful day, with a pumpkin spiced beer. I talked to Tom Jones and asked him what he thought, “Great Idea! Not having the other event created a loss of economic impact on the community. By not letting it die, a Sussex county tradition is being preserved.” Then of course we talked about fishing, because, well, that is what I always do, and hey … he asked! It was good to see Tom, and you could tell he was pleased to see this event happening. By the way the chili was the bomb! I ran into Nick Embert and he said it was good to see it back to the roots, with no politics involved. Reggie Jackson was with him, no not the baseball player, and he said the same thing, he has been involved with this since the beginning and was glad it was back to the basics.
So when things calmed down a bit I sat down with Frank Payton III, owner of Techno Goober, and discussed the Farm Fling. First and most obvious question … why Farm Fling? “We live everyday doing what we do on a normal basis, we get together once a year at a single location and do what we don’t normally do, fling pumpkins.” Frank, his father Frank, and son Robbie were all there with their trebuchets, catapults and air cannons they made, three generations of flingers. His daughter has the little pink cat and it is called “Stand Back A Lil Bit” she is 4 years old and has caught the bug from her parents. His son at 6 years old has his own trebuchet called “Pop pop’s machine” Because when he was 3 it was all about Pop pop. I mean how cool is that, when I was six I couldn’t have a sling shot, these kids have catapults and trebuchets. You reading this mom, I feel deprived! This whole event is about the kids, it is all about them having fun, the next generation, everyone wins, and they have already won just by having the event. Family and friends were coming down this year from Jersey, like every year when we get together, and I spent 5 weeks making this happen so we could all have some fun.” We are also raising money to help a friend and veteran that was badly burned in a fire, we are not doing this to make money, but to help someone in need we care about.” … Frank Payton III
I was informed the some of the original founders were at this event. Chuck Burton, Bill Thompson aka Broad Dog, and Doc Pepper. Frank Shade the announcer for the day and one heck of a personality told me the story. “As legend has it one day these guys were at Jon Ellsworth’s blacksmith shop in Lewes, talking about medieval games, and a challenge was made. Anvil tossing was brought up, well these boys knew that tossing anvils was hard on your back. Someone mentioned these college kids were throwing pumpkins, by hand, for distance to raise money for a charity. Being good Sussex countians they figured they could make machines to do just that. They threw down the gauntlet, which was John’s hat, and everyone stomped on it. They decided they would meet the first Saturday after Halloween in 1986 on Thompson’s farm. They had 3 machines and only threw pumpkins for a distance of 80 feet in front of about a 100 people. The rest is history, and eventually turned into that other event.” I hope I did that justice, Frank Shade can really tell a story, he would be one heck of a fishermen, just ask him.
The day went on and I heard story after story of days gone by, everyone still excited this was happening. With all the kids out there I came to realize this was an event that was three generations deep with participants. They took it back to basics and did it for the kids, and to keep a tradition alive for family, friends, and neighbors. I was honored to be invited and look forward to next year. Frank Payton III said they will do this every year and treat it the same, as an invite only event. At the end of the day all of the machines were left alone, and everyone moved towards the entrance area. Old Glory had been loaded with a special pumpkin. Captain Speed a dear friend of everyone and fellow flinger passed on this year and everyone wanted to send one to the heavens in his honor. With Old Glory raised and pressurized, close friends said a few words, and then they raised a ruckus and fired that pumpkin into the heavens.
Being a part of this event was very special, watching Americana in action like the days of old was something I will remember forever. I spoke with Chuck Burton the second day and he said “This is where we really started, the tribute for Captain Speed was a good thing for old friends.” Thank you all for doing this, and see you next year at Farm Fling 2015.