Let ’em fly

A pumpkin gets fired into the air during Punkin’ Chunkin’ Saturday at DeVries Friend-ly Farm in Olathe. The event was a fundraiser to benefit the Olathe Fire Protection District. 

Spooky corn maze haunts and mechanical bull rides aren’t the only attractions returning to the annual Pumpkin Chunkin fall festival this month.

After a hiatus last year, the Olathe Fire Department (OFD) is celebrating its 18th anniversary of the fundraising event with the classic pumpkin chunkin shoot-offs, the Bookmobile, tractor pulls, silent auction, a bounce house and more.

The fall festival is one most locals know and love, providing support for the OFD. Funds raised at the event will be used to support the district for training and gear for firefighters and EMS personnel, as well as providing funds for the department’s annual scholarship.

The April Mason Memorial Scholarship isn’t new, but was adopted as the scholarship’s new name at the beginning of the year in honor of Mason, who passed away in October 2020. The scholarship is traditionally awarded to a high school student each year.

“She was a big supporter of the fire department, and she did many many things for us throughout the years,” said Kaycee Havenridge, the treasurer gaming manager of the OFD Association and co-organizer of Pumpkin Chunkin, who recalled how supportive Mason was of the fire department.

A portion of the raffle items during the event will fund the scholarship.

Mason was the daughter of Pamela Friend, the owner of Devries Fruits and Veggies and host of Pumpkin Chunkin.

“My parents started the Devries Fruit and Veggies stand here in 1943,” said Friend. “When we lost both parents, my husband and I took over this part of the property and we built the store.”

The property home to Devries is known as Friend-ly Farm, a reference to the owner’s name. As the newest owner following a lineage of generations within her family, Friend carries on the traditions of truck gardening and raising fruits and vegetables supplied to the community.

“This has been going on since 1942 and it’s been taken over by generations in the past. We are the next generation,” Friend commented.

The cornfield will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30 chock-full of events and activities until 4 p.m. Havenridge is waiting on confirmation for a petting zoo, but assures festival goers that there will be food and music galore. Vendors include food trucks, ice cream and shaved ice, jewelry stands and craft stands.

Pumpkin shooters are scheduled to begin shooting off chunkers at 11:30 a.m., kicking off the distance portion of the annual competition. Competition for accuracy begins at 12:30 p.m.

“This year, we just have three [shooters],” said Havenridge. “Two of them are unable to make it, but we do have three.”

The pumpkins will shoot out of a cannon at an already-totaled old vehicle placed in the middle of the field, said the organizer. Judges will mark a spot on the car the shooter is aiming to hit and then evaluate which target is hit with the most accuracy.

“After that we kind of just shoot them off randomly through the day,” said Havenridge. “We have some stuffed animals that we shoot out for the kids and we’ll let them do races for those.”

Entrance to the event is free, but raffle tickets can be purchased for a nine millimeter Springfield Armory Hellcat pistol, a His and Hers diamond archery compound bows as one item and a Yeti cooler. Tickets can be purchased for the gun and bows each for $25 and the Yeti cooler tickets can be purchased for $10. All items have 100 tickets available for purchase.

Donations can be made to staff walking around with boots. “We kind of do a ‘fill the boot’ type thing,” said Havenridge. “Just donate what you have and what you can if you want to and then just come enjoy the event.”

Door prizes will be handed out throughout the day with J&M Entertainment DJing while handing out his own prizes.

Finally, the haunted corn maze will cap the day by welcoming the public from 6 to 10 p.m.

Devries Produce is located off of Highway 50 at 60542 Gunnison Road in Olathe.

Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.