Every October Roger Williams Park Zoo is lit up with unique art pieces utilizing an unusual canvas. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is a show filled with masterfully carved pumpkins that runs through Oct. 31. It features hundreds of different designs created by a team of 15 talented artists.
The event began 31 years ago in Oxford, Mass., but moved to Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island a few years later. This year’s theme is music throughout the ages, where each section of the zoo takes you through a different decade with pumpkins covered in celebrities, landscapes, and logos.
Not surprisingly, the carvers say the pumpkins prove to be a bit more challenging for artists to tackle than regular canvases.
“It’s kinda tricky to put a flat image on a round pumpkin so that really creates a challenge with lining up perspective,” said Britni Laquidori, a mom of two who has been taking part in the show for eight years, “I definitely look for the fewest ridges, I usually look for one with a less bulbous front so a little flatter. We also avoid scabs on the pumpkin.”
In their first stages, the art is drawn on the pumpkins with a sharpie. Artists follow up with sanders and skin peelers to add different layers and textures to the pumpkin.
“Usually it takes about 2 to 4 hours to make a pumpkin. Sometimes even 6 to 8 if they’re really big and really intricate,” said Ernie D’elia, one of the show’s pumpkin artists.
The extensive process has to be repeated every week. Pumpkins only last 7 to 10 days so there are usually four rotations of pumpkin carvings, allowing visitors to catch new designs if they come again later in the season.
In addition to carving pumpkins, both D’elia and fellow artist John Conway build props for different sections of the trail. Some props include aliens, giant storybooks, and album covers.
“It’s very amazing because it’s like a production,” explained Conway, “It’s not like a job where I clock in at 9 and leave at 5. If things fall down we have to be here to get it back up.”
This year’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular offers a new take on how spectators view the beautifully carved pumpkins they showcase annually.