December 1, 2021

Punkin Chunkin a smash

Manufacturing companies battle at Yaman Park

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Rick Burt, troop master of Boy Scout Troop 85 in Homer, launches a pumpkin from a slingshot Thursday at Yaman Park in Cortland. The Friends of the Boy Scouts group joined workers of Intertek and Voyant Beauty in a competition to design, build and deploy a slingshot device.

It all started with the promise of friendly competition — and ended with a pile of broken pumpkins.

Engineers at manufacturing companies Voyant Beauty and Intertek Cortland are no strangers to unique projects, but building a slingshot for the first annual Punkin Chunkin event was a special task. After a week of construction, the teams set up in Yaman Park in Cortland to see who could get their pumpkins closer to the 200-foot goal.

“I’m friends with some of the folks over at Intertek and we were actually just hanging out one night a couple years ago, and I teased them saying that my engineers are better than theirs — we went back and forth, and I challenged them,” said Stacey Hagadorn, Voyant Beauty’s commercial lead and sales manager.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed their duel, but Hagadorn didn’t forget.

“I just kind of rolled into Intertek and said I wanted to change the conversation within our workplace, get away from the everyday stresses of COVID and stuff,” Hagadorn said. “With the event, we could get people out of work for a little bit, give some time off in the afternoon to be outside and have fun and toss some pumpkins.”

Intertek and Voyant Beauty were joined by the Friends of the Boy Scouts, who built their slingshot on a truck trailer. While the adults handled the engineering and catapulting of the gourds, the Boy Scouts cleaned up the decimated pumpkins and sold popcorn for their annual fundraiser.

The cost of admission was at least one non-perishable food item. After the event, Voyant employees boxed up the donations to be split up among each of Cortland’s food pantries.

“We know how important the food banks are this time of year, and throughout the whole pandemic I know they’ve been hit hard,” Hagadorn said.

“The goal was to just get out and do something good for the community,” said Lincoln Billings, Intertek’s director of operations.

More than 100 people attended the event, mostly employees, Boy Scouts and friends. Voyant Beauty employees were invited to submit their names for a random drawing to launch a pumpkin. The Voyant engineers designed their slingshot specifically to be user-friendly no matter who was selected, said Engineering Manager Josh Colistra.

“Our engineering team fabricated it in-house, and it’s actually made up from the sanitary piping material the shampoo and conditioner go through,” Colistra said. Voyant Beauty’s top products include soaps, shampoo, laundry detergent and hospitality products for hotels.

Sarah Dent, a process engineer for Voyant Beauty, was the second person up to the plate. She slammed the hammer down on the pressure plate, releasing the slingshot and sending the pumpkin soaring across Yaman Park’s field.

“It was really interesting, and it’s nice to get out and do something different on a Thursday,” Dent said. “It was worth coming out just to see it. I mean, who doesn’t like smashing pumpkins?”