In the US, the sudden
appearance of large orange pumpkins in country pastures and
suburban supermarkets signals the start of autumn just as surely as the changing colour of the leaves or the cooler temperatures.
But beyond acting as an ingredient in pies, bread and spiced lattes, people country-wide have found other strange but creative uses
for the seasonal squash.
Pumpkin Fest, Highwood, Illinois
This city 30 miles north of
Chicago takes all things pumpkin to the extreme. The three-day festival, 18 October
through 20 October, starts with an attempt to beat the world record for the longest line of
pies (currently held
by a man from Atlanta, Georgia, at 530ft 8in), but
using all pumpkin pies. The next day, the competition continues as participants
try to break the record for most simultaneously carved pumpkins -- 935 -- held by students in Ontario, Canada.
The last day of the festival
continues with the Pumpkin Land Regatta, where individual participants race 200- to 300lb pumpkins over a 150yd course on wheeled dollies (with both a motorized and
not motorized competition), and concludes
with the lighting of the pumpkin walls -- 32,000 jack-o-lanterns stacked on
30ft high walls.
Jack-o-Lantern Blaze, Croton-on-Hudson, New York
More an art installation than a
pumpkin display, the Blaze
puts 5,000 intricately carved pumpkins on display around the stately Van
Cortlandt Manor, 40 miles
north of New York City. In addition to individual jack-o-lanterns, creations also include life-size
dinosaurs made from carved gourds, a pumpkin aquarium complete with carved fish
and coral, and 10ft-tall “jack o’ lantern-in-the-box” that function exactly
like a normal jack-in-the-box, but with popping pumpkins.
Open 22 nights in October and
early November, the Blaze costs $16 for adults and $12 for children under 12.
Pumpkin Carving Contest, Key Largo,
On 21 October, divers will
submerge 30ft below the surface of the sea armed with a hollowed pumpkin and
a sharpened dive knife, hoping to carve the best pumpkin as judged by the dive
boat crew. The challenge, held in the
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is harder than it sounds, since the
hollow squash has a tendency to float to the surface. The $85 entry fee covers
tanks, transportation and snorkel equipment, and the top three win a dive trip
for two in the Florida Keys.