Andrew Dys

Rain after drought? No problem for Chester County farm and its ‘punkin chunkin’ catapult

Jeb Wilson, left, and Pete Wilson kneel with pumpkins ranging in weight up to 250 pounts they grew at their Cotton Hills Farm in Lowrys.
Jeb Wilson, left, and Pete Wilson kneel with pumpkins ranging in weight up to 250 pounts they grew at their Cotton Hills Farm in Lowrys.

Summer drought could not ruin the pumpkins. Rain that beat down for days could not stop the pumpkins.

And nothing stops the “punkin chunkin” at Cotton Hills Farm in the rural Chester County town of Lowrys. A place where the population is 199 people and the pumpkin population is about 19,999.

“We had a lot thrown at us this year, first the drought and then the rain, but we got great pumpkins,” said Jeb Wilson, one of the farm owners.

Saturday, the population in Lowrys goes up. Way up. Because it is punkin chunkin day.

And a lot more.

Saturday is the 15th annual Farm Fair at Cotton Hills Farm. It is a huge event for the Wilson family, which has what is believed to be the largest pumpkin-growing operation in South Carolina, with more than 80 acres of pumpkins on both sides of the Chester and York county line. There is a corn maze and tractor rides, bluegrass music, a pumpkin to fit the size of any young kid or old geezer, and all kinds of other great stuff.

There are the small pumpkins and some bigger and blue ones and green ones and orange ones – the color of Clemson University, because out there at Cotton Hills Farm, Clemson is not just a school where the sons went but a part of life. There are pumpkins round and ovalish and smooth and bumpy. There are even a couple that weigh more than 250 pounds. Cotton Hills Farm pumpkins are featured at many area stores, too, including several area Harris Teeter and Earth Fare stores.

It all started 25 years ago when brothers Pete and Jeb Wilson were kids on the family farm that has been running since 1882, and they grew and sold pumpkins on the side of the road.

“First pumpkin I sold, I was 4,” said Pete Wilson. “We have done it ever since.”

And yes – Saturday means pumpkins, and pumpkins means catapult. Roman Revenge, operated by Kim Moore of Gaston County, N.C., is the name of the catapult that throws pumpkins a third of a mile or more. Or not quite as far, but almost as high, if the catapult aims skyward instead of for distance.

The higher it goes, the better the splat. There are even special ammo pumpkins, around 10 pounds and dense as a bowling ball, specially grown by Pete Wilson for maximum loft and splat.

And on Saturday when the pumpkins get thrown in Lowrys, the fruit or the gourd – or whatever a pumpkin is officially called by the kind of people who are in the Food section of the newspaper – is no longer is called a pumpkin, but a punkin. And it ain’t chucking, but chunkin.

Punkin chunkin.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065

Want to go?

The 15th annual Farm Fair at Cotton Hills Farm at the intersection of U.S. 321 and S.C. 909 in Lowrys is from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 children, 1 and under free. For information, call 803-581-4545, or visit