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10 Sports Involving Pumpkins

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When you think of pumpkin competitions, the first thing that comes to mind is the race to grow the world's largest pumpkin. But if you can't spend all year nursing your garden fruits, there are plenty of other fun things to do with a pumpkin. And some people take those things very seriously.

1. Pumpkin Paddling

A sport that is growing in popularity is Pumpkin Paddling, in which you make a boat out of a giant pumpkin and race against other pumpkin boats. Honestly, they do this in several places. One of the biggest competitions is the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta in Damariscotta, Maine. The pumpkinfest has contests for growing, decorating, and carving pumpkins, but the regatta is the biggest draw. Watch a video to see how it's done.

2. Pumpkin Bowling

The sport of pumpkin bowling has yet to reach the level of regional and national competitions. Rather, it is limited to local and even party-level games because the rules vary from region to region. In Minnesota, the Downing Pumpkin Farm has an annual competition on New Year's Day.

3. Punkin Chunkin

Punkin' Chunkin' 2010 - Air Cannons

It takes some real power to throw a pumpkin. It helps if you build a machine to do it! There are many community and regional pumpkin-throwing competitions, but the biggest of all is the World Championship Punkin Chunkin held the first weekend in November in a big field near Seaford, Delaware. Chunk a pumpkin as far as you can with a compressed air cannon, trebuchet, catapult, centrifugal engine, or by human power alone. Each gadget has a separate competition. If you can't make it, the best of the best will be broadcast on nationwide TV Thanksgiving evening. Here you see some of the homemade air cannons. Image by Flickr user autiscy.

4. Underwater Pumpkin Carving

Catalina Halloween Diving 2009 - 23

You have your everyday pumpkin carving competitions all over the country, and then you have underwater pumpkin carving. It takes longer to carve a pumpkin underwater, but you can leave your mess behind for the fish. Also, pumpkins tend to float before they are pierced, so you may have to practice wrestling them down to the carving area.
Image by Flickr user David Galvan .

Pumpkin Drops

When you Google the term Pumpkin Drop, you will get either recipes (pumpkin drop cookies) or competitions in which people drop pumpkins. But there are many different ways to win a pumpkin drop.

5. Drop for Preservation

The Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at West Virginia University stages an annual pumpkin drop. The goal in this drop is to design packaging for the pumpkin that will keep it from breaking at the end of an 11-story fall. And it's a difficult challenge: materials are limited to things that are safe for the surrounding crowd, and must be biodegradable and able to be cleaned up within 30 seconds of the drop!

6. Drop for a Pretty Splat

In contrast, the whole point of dropping pumpkins for Boston University's physics department is to make an aesthetically pleasing mess. Students fill their pumpkins with paint or other materials (whipped cream is popular) to make a nice colorful splat on the sidewalk underneath the 70-foot drop. Watch the process on video.

7. Drop for Splat Distance

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) drops a huge pumpkin off the tallest building on campus every October to see how big a splat they can make. In 1995, pieces flew over an area 100 feet wide! But that's not all -the pumpkin is first filled with candy, so after the drop students can sort through pumpkin guts on the ground for treats.

8. Drop for Charity

Farms that stage fall festivals have various forms of pumpkin drops as well. HeeHaw Farms in Pleasant Grove, Utah drops pumpkins to benefit the March of Dimes. Purchase a pumpkin and use it for a target drop. Pumpkins over 500 pounds are dropped from a crane onto a car!

9. Drop for the Ride

The Great Texas Pumpkin Drop Festival takes place in San Marcos, Texas. It's a fundraising event in which participants pay to go up a tethered hot air balloon and drop pumpkins from high in the air just to watch them splat!

10. Aerial Pumpkin Bombing

The St. Charles Flying Service in Missouri hosts an annual pumpkin drop from airplanes! The goal in this drop is to hit a target on the ground from a plane. The video shown here is from a similar drop at Antique Airfield in Blakesburg, Iowa in 2009. They staged a pumpkin drop for 14 years, but then discontinued the event.

Main image by Flickr user Chiot's Run. This story originally appeared in 2011.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
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If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
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While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
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Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
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Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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25 Brilliant Halloween Life Hacks
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Halloween season is here, which means a lot of scrambling to find costumes, navigating fake spider webs, and cleaning pumpkin guts off of your kitchen table. If you find yourself getting a little stressed over the festivities, check out these 25 life hacks that promise to make your holiday prep a little less scary.

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