A few days ago my family and I went to RISE of the Jack-O-Lanterns at Santa Anita Park. What we expected wasn’t what we got. We expected more ambiance, mood lighting, something moody and spooky. What we got were dozens (they advertise thousands) of intricately sculpted pumpkins (which were indescribably genius), thousands of jack-o-lanterns that appeared to have been chopped into by 8-year olds (wondering if these were donated by schools?), and some incredibly bad lighting. At $26 per adult admission and $22 for kids under twelve, this was disappointing. The flood lights they used to light the parking lot should have been directed away from the pumpkin displays, not toward them. This caused a need to shield one’s eyes when looking at the displays, squinting to see the details, unable to enjoy that soft, orange glow that makes a pumpkin a jack-o-lantern.

I’d like to see RISE again, but elsewhere. I have to assume that the east coast shows are more ambient and not industrially lit (fingers crossed).

While there we met Joseph Yakovetic (who I JUST NOW found out is a Disney artist) who pumpkin-sculpted for Team Spell Binders on Food Network’s 2015 Halloween Wars. He was the highlight of the show and was a pleasure to speak with and learn from. He demonstrated his carving techniques and spoke of the properties of carved pumpkin flesh: how once carved it tries to “heal” itself with a protective layer of hardened sap-like substance, preserving itself as best it can.

This is Joseph, and that evening’s project…

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That inspiring man gave me a bug, an itch to learn some carving techniques myself… and I bought some giant pumpkins right then and there! RISE had GREAT prices… $5 for one pumpkin, or $12 for three, no matter the size. We walked out with three. And by “walked”, I mean “huffed and grunted while laboriously dragging three 30-40 lb pumpkins to the car”.

I wanted to make these…

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I have a good start so far, attempting my first one today, this day before Halloween. I’ll upload photos later to show you how well I did, or how crummy. I just don’t know how this is going to turn out. I think I can, I think I can…

This also inspired me: a life-sized zombie made of pumpkins. Swoon…

If you get the itch, too, please share. I would love to see your creations!

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