Today, it has 10 bedrooms, six bathrooms, and several half baths. There are nine working fireplaces, a dining room that seats 24, a library, and large chef’s kitchen.

But the main house was just the beginning. “The first year I would come up every weekend, get on my tractor, and clear fields of wild roses,” Fitzgerald says. “Once we’d cleared a 10-acre field of roses and pushed them all into a huge bonfire, we had a Guy Fawkes party.”

That party led to what—at least from an outsider’s perspective—is probably the most impressive aspect of the Fitzgeralds’ stewardship of the land, namely their annual pumpkin shoot, which ran from 2001 to 2013.

The Pumpkin Catapults
After the first bonfire, “we decided it wasn’t sufficiently entertaining, so we invited people to bring handmade trebuchets [a type of catapult] to fling pumpkins into the fire,” Fitzgerald explains.

The first year he invited them, five teams of friends showed up. By the twelfth and final year “we had teams coming in from out of state, and probably 10 compressed-air cannons, some of which could shoot a 10-pound pumpkin three-quarters of a mile.”

Fitzgerald would build a castle with parapets and a portcullis out of sheetrock and two-by-fours, and contestants would fire at it from a nearby ridge. “It was such an energetic event,” Fitzgerald says, “and then at the end we would light a huge bonfire.”

It gradually morphed into a community event, where everyone from the town was invited. Fitzgerald’s family would serve burgers and roast pigs, and beer and wine to everyone of drinking age. Over time, more than a thousand people would show up.

Eventually things began to teeter on the edge of getting out of hand, and Fitzgerald decided to shut it down. “It was a private event but everyone in the community knew they were invited,” he explains. “But when we started hearing that it was being advertised on the radio, that informed our decision.”

Insurance liability became a concern. “Even though we’d have nine state police officers overseeing it, one time a trebuchet hit a car—no harm done to the occupant of the car,” he says. “But at the first inkling of bad behavior we decided it was time to pack it in.”

The Estate
Even without the prospect of hurling pumpkins the length of several football fields, there was plenty to do on the property.