Imagine walking among 600 carved pumpkins as they illuminate your path through the crisp October night. Now imagine this scene at the Glensheen Mansion. The first ever Glensheen Jack O’ Lantern Spooktacular will take place this week starting Thursday, Oct. 27 from 6-9 P.M.
The event is an art display of pumpkins carved by people in the Duluth community. The jack o’ lanterns will outline the Congdon estate and light the way as guests travel the grounds. There will also be live entertainment and a marshmallow-roasting station to make s’mores. The Spooktacular is not intended to be scary like the Haunted Ship and other “haunted” venues in town, but rather more of a family friendly event.
“We are not adding any super scary aspects,” said Lori Melton, the director of marketing at Glensheen. “Just because it is seven acres in the dark and jack o’ lanterns everywhere it will be spooky enough on its own. We aren’t amplifying that at all.”
The preparation for Spooktacular has been a huge community undertaking. Individuals, local companies and organizations, and UMD students and staff have all participated in the carving of the 600 pumpkins.
“It has been so much fun having the community participate in the carving,” Melton said.
The Winter Garden located on the historic estate is where the carving is taking place. Hundreds of finished jack o’ lanterns line the indoor garden’s walls. People of all ages carved as many pumpkins as they wanted.
There were various carving tools and stencils available, but Melton said she liked seeing what people did on their own.
“Especially the middle schooler’s,” Melton said. “They came up with some really interesting ones. And then of course the art and design students have amazing work. They are pieces of art for sure.”
Not only were the people who came out and carved pumpkins helping make the future event possible, but they received an extra incentive. Free pumpkin seeds.
“That was the highlight,” said Kelly Kemper, a UMD junior political science major.
“Yeah we are going to keep them and bake them later,” said Cayli Webster, a UMD junior business major.
The idea for this event came from a month-long festival held in Providence, Rhode Island. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo showcases thousands of carved pumpkins in a 26-day illuminated celebration.
Robert Hofmann, the senior development director for the School of Fine Arts at UMD, used to live in Rhode Island and had wanted to start an event similar in Duluth ever since he moved here.
“Lori (Melton) and I looked to see if anyone was doing anything like that in Minnesota and the closest thing we found was out of state,” Hofmann said. “So we realized that we had come across a niche opportunity.”
Knowing how well Bentleyville has progressed over the years, Hofmann is optimistic about the future of the Spooktacular.
“We can envision going over the course of several weekends and being able to host not only hundreds but maybe thousands of people like Bentleyville,” Hofmann said. “And we would like to keep it affordable so that families can afford to keep coming.”
The Jack O’Lantern Spooktacular runs Oct. 27-30 from 6-9 p.m. and is $7 per person, $17 for families, and free for Friends of Glensheen and children who are five and younger. Tickets are available in advance and at the event.