The (Not So) Great Divide
The difference between upstate and downstate isn’t what it used to be. Here’s why.
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When the first Punkin Chunkin’ was held in 1986, it wasn’t considered a regional event. It wasn’t even thought of as a local one. Basically, a few guys gathered in the woods to drink and launch pumpkins off of flatbed trucks with contraptions made from tree branches, for no other reason than to watch the fruit fly. But with every orange missile, and every passing year, a stereotype of Southern Delaware grew.
Fast forward 24 years. Now the stereotypes are flying farther than the pumpkins. For three days this November, Punkin Chunkin’ will be held in Bridgeville, in what is considered one of the most well-attended spectacles in all the state. It is expected to draw 50,000 visitors, who will marvel at the nearly mile-long regiment of advanced technology, thermodynamics and engineering, and who will arrive in pick-up trucks from Dagsboro and SUVs from Hockessin.
“Our event is a cross-section of America—and Delaware,” says John Huber, Punkin Chunkin’ president. “Chunkers are everyone from dentists, engineers, welders, housewives, lawyers, scout leaders, business owners and psychologists. The audiences are changing, too. They are blue collar and white collar, and they’re all finding that Punkin Chunkin’ is no longer what everyone used to think it was.”
Neither is Delaware.
For more than a century, the stories of our three counties of Delaware have played out before us like a story of three siblings divided in two by their ways of life.
To the north of the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, Northern New Castle County is hip, aware and connected, driven by financial services and giants of science and technology. It is the sibling who spends a portion of his life commuting to a job at a national or multi-national corporation and answering IM invites to the hot new bistro downtown. For years, New Castle has had little in common with its siblings to the south, where agriculture and tourism still fuel the economy.
In recent years, however, New Castle County has seen Kent and Sussex counties redefine themselves. It has seen kids from Dover and beyond tricked out on the latest fashions purchased from the Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth. It sees a real estate boom of homes that are superb values. It hears about jazz festivals and swanky restaurants where they serve seared filet mignon garnished with foie gras. It has seen refreshing ideas move in with new people.
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