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Aviation

It’s Halloween in Alaska, time for the Great Pumpkin Drop

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: October 31, 2017
  • Published October 30, 2017

Pilots, friends and family gathered on the Knik River gravel bars for the Great Alaskan Pumpkin Drop, Saturday.  (Cory Kittle)

PALMER — If it's Halloween, it must be time to chuck perfectly good pumpkins out of small airplanes over a glacial Alaska river rimmed with towering snowy peaks.

Saturday marked the third annual Great Alaskan Pumpkin Drop — an increasingly popular aviation event that draws pilots to the Knik River Valley as the end of October draws close.

Dozens of aircraft participated in the event, which involves dropping pumpkins out of planes — usually a passenger does the dropping — in hopes of hitting a scarecrow on the gravel below.

The event attracted more than 40 small planes — from Super Cubs to a Cessna 150 — to a well-used practice airstrip along the Knik River north of Hunter Creek.

More than three dozen airplanes gathered for the Great Alaskan Pumpkin Drop, Saturday.  The Knik Glacier is in the background. (Cory Kittle)

Pilot Cory Kittle captured various planes and a few drops in a video and photos. Kittle, an Eagle River resident who got his pilot's license while in the U.S. Air Force, also competed in his Super Cub.

"I wasn't the closest for sure, but I didn't embarrass myself," he said Monday. "I think I was about 4 or 5 feet away from the circle."

The drop began several years ago as the inspiration of Wasilla pilot and hangar-home builder Ron Kuzina.

Kuzina said he just wanted to come up with an aviation-related event to get pilots, friends and families together. A lot of fly-in events may drop something like flour. Kuzina said he thought pumpkins "might be cool" this time of year.

There's apparently no great art to choosing pumpkins.

"Everybody just kind of does their own thing," he said. "Small ones – they're easier to hold on to. I've even seen some carved pumpkins coming out of planes."

Smashed pumpkins are near the target during the Great Alaskan Pumpkin Drop. (Cory Kittle)

Most pilots had help from passengers who actually did the pumpkin-heaving, Kuzina said.

Event organizers try to keep planes at least 100 feet off the ground. There's no trophy except the scarecrow. This year's winner — Wasilla's Dan Jirak — took off before he got the prize, Kuzina said.

Next year, he'll probably start adding some rules to reflect the Pumpkin Drop's growing popularity.

"I think we're going to get a little more organized," Kuzina said. "Maybe have a clipboard and a loudspeaker."

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the winning pilot.

A pumpkin falls from Brian Mason’s plane at the Great Alaskan Pumpkin Drop on Saturday. Mason is a science teacher at Chugiak High School.  (Cory Kittle)

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