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Carve out some time for these 5 innovative pumpkin exhibitions

By Alice Yoo

Halloween isn’t just about costumes and candy. Americans have become obsessed with ever more elaborate forms of pumpkin carving. In the average nuclear family, this results in a jack-o-lantern or two. But a number of communities across the country have taken pumpkin carving to the level of (often monumental) fine art. Here are five innovative exhibitions—some involving massive displays of thousands of jack-o-lanterns—that are well worth the drive. Your 2014 Cruze—with its attention-grabbing grille, sculpted fenders and (standard on the LTZ) enhanced foglamps—is the perfect vehicle for cutting a bright trail through the spooky night.

Keene Pumpkin Festival, Keene, New Hampshire
At this family-friendly event, tens of thousands of people attempt to create the largest number of jack-o’-lanterns in one place at one time. While activities include pumpkin bowling and a children’s costume parade, it’s the spectacular pumpkin tower on Central Square that’s the centerpiece of the festival.

Row upon row of carved pumpkins line a four-sided scaffold. When evening falls, candles are lit within each pumpkin and flickering orange walls light up the night.

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze,
Sleepy Hollow, New York

This fall spectacle features all manner of statuesque architecture constructed from more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns. For 25 nights, including Halloween itself, visitors are invited to wander down a path of illuminated pumpkins purposefully arranged by theme or concept (everything from a giant spider to super-sized dinosaurs to a mammoth King Kong perched on a tall building). The walk is complete with sound effects, synchronized lighting and original music.

Like an art installation, the event is meant to complement its setting—in this case, the mysterious and historic architecture of Van Cortlandt Manor’s 18th-Century buildings.

The Haunted Pumpkin Garden, The New York Botanical Gardens, Bronx, New York
Kids can play inside a “gourd-geous” Pumpkin House or see a stunning display of spooky scarecrows, frightening spiders and sneaky snakes—all carved onto, or created out of, 500 pumpkins.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, Roger Williams Park Zoo, Providence, Rhode Island
Called Pumpkinville, USA, this amazing display consists of 5,000 illuminated jack-o-lanterns whose intricate, artistic carvings represent different regions of the country. The grand finale presentation (back by popular demand) is “The Laughing Tree,” where hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns, both on the ground and in trees, surround huge carved pumpkins, some of which are well over 1,000 pounds.

Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, Half Moon Bay, California
Art and giant pumpkins collide at this West Coast festival. Farmer Mike Valladao, otherwise known as “The Picasso of Pumpkin Carvers,” will shape a monster 1,200+-pound pumpkin into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Meanwhile, artist Peter Hazel has created a massive mosaic pumpkin sculpture that measures 12 feet long by 11 feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds! (This one isn’t made from an actual pumpkin, of course, but from steel, cement and ceramic tile.)

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Alice Yoo is founder and editor-in-chief of My Modern Metropolis,a must-visit culture destination where trend-spotters and art enthusiasts connect over creative ideas. After graduating from UCLA and working in advertising for MTV, she started My Modern Met in 2008. Follow her on Twitter @mymodernmet or @aliceyoo.

Pumpkin towers photo ©Bryan Haeffele
Dinosaur photo by Tom Nycz


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