Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rise of the Jack O' Lantern

I spent last night at Descanso Gardens for a Halloween event called the Rise of the Jack O' Lantern.  The event has been running for about 4 years in various locations in both California and New York, but it is the first time I've been.  Descanso is located north-west of Pasadena and is lovely with various gardens during most of the year.  During the month or so before Halloween, they outfit the rose garden with thousands and thousands of beautifully hand carved and hand painted pumpkins.
 When you first walk through the loop, one of their carvers demonstrates "how they do it" by carving self portraits.
 While some were carved and painted just onto one pumpkin, other pumpkins created entire scenes - each one including just a small detail of the entire display.
There were a lot of faces from pop culture and current talking heads.
 The dinosaurs were amazing.  A bit farther back off the path, so not quite a clear in the iPhone pictures.  You get the gist...
 The Inside Out characters
And those who have passed.
The last few of the displays were my favorite.  This dragon was incredible.  It was enormous!  Having to stand a big farther back to get it in its entirety loses some of the detail, but each pumpkin was so intricate, even down to the Chinese lanterns hanging from above.
The loop of displays probably took about an hour or so to walk around.  In the literature, it addressed the issue of pumpkin rot and how they handle it.  Each week (for about its 6 week run) the pumpkins are replaced with new, recarved ones.  While making sense, that also kind of blows my mind.
I was very impressed and look forward to returning again next year for an entirely different show.
Happy Halloween!!!


  1. I am SO impressed and would LOVE to see this in person!! One of my favorite programs on Food Network is their annual "Halloween Wars" which always features outstanding pumpkin carving artwork. I've got all four episodes from this year sitting in my DVR and I'm hoping to find time to watch them later today. At least with DVR I can zip through all the "drama" and just see the end results. :)

    1. It's funny you mention Halloween Wars as I believe a lot of the carvers for this have also been on that show as well. They've been advertising them as demonstrators on various nights. I hadn't realized it was a "thing". We always carved pumpkins a night or two before halloween, but they were the typical triangle eyes, nose, and jagged teeth. There has been a lot of those stencils and other carving tools on the market in the last few years, but even still I hadn't realized what people were doing with them. It was something.
      It got me in fall spirit last night, being cool and crisp and Halloween-y, alas it's 92 degrees today. Nothing like sweating in your Halloween costume to knock me right back out of it.

    2. If you ever get the chance, you should watch an episode. It's pretty impressive. They have teams consisting of a pumpkin carver, a cake artist, and a sugar artist. Then they have to first create a "small challenge" to try and win an advantage to then be used in the regular challenge (which also includes a tasting element). They're given a theme and have to work from there, blending their talents as seamlessly as possible. I'm always amazed at the skill involve by all of them.

    3. Those kind of shows are always impressive. Interesting that they use cake/sugar artists for it.

  2. That is pretty darn impressive.

    1. The ones we get here are thick skinned enough to make holes and stay up. But I doubt we could shade them like they've done. That's carving. Is there special tools fr the job ?.

    2. The guy demonstrating just used a knife, I believe. The darker shading on these pumpkins (at least the ones up close that I could see) were painted, while the lighter shades are from the carving.
      We never did more than the basics, but I've heard it's gotten a bit more "artistic" in the recent years. I just searched it and came up with this site.
      Clearly we were doing it wrong. :)