October 12, 2022

The Amazing Pumpkin Carve Is a Hybrid Event This Year

CREATIVE CARVING: “Last Dance,” carved by artist Sarah Bernotas, was a highlight of last year’s Amazing Pumpkin Carve. This year’s version allows a choice between up-close or drive-through viewing.

By Anne Levin

Once a visitor to the Hopewell Valley Arts Council’s annual “Amazing Pumpkin Carve” gets a glimpse of one of the huge, intricately sculpted pumpkins that go on display at Woolsey Park each fall, they tend to want to see it up close. That wasn’t possible during the pandemic, when viewing these sometimes outrageous works of art was only available from vehicle windows.

But this year’s event, which opened October 12 and runs through Sunday, October 16, allows a choice. Wednesday and Thursday, October 12 and 13 are walk-through days, while on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the event is drive-through only.

“This is kind of a recalibration year. We actually made more money doing the drive-through, but people really want a chance to see these pumpkins up close,” said Carol Lipson, Hopewell Valley Arts Council board member. “So that’s why we’re putting our toe back in the water with a hybrid. In the future, we might do more walk-through days.”

The pumpkin carve is the largest fundraiser for the arts council. Last year, 3,000 visitors attended in their cars. Local artists carve more than 40 oversized pumpkins, usually weighing in at more than 125 pounds (the drought this past summer resulted in a slight reduction in size). The list of artists, which continues to grow, includes John Goeke, Jodi Walker, Joyce Vollmer, Aleece Davis, Benjamin Clark, Curtis May, Kathy Kutz, Sofia Gruson, Sarah Bernotas, and several more.

“Three quarters of them have been doing this since we started,” said Lipson. “Artists don’t get an opportunity to carve something this big very often. We do try and get new people every year, so this year we have five new artists so far. And that’s fun, because everybody brings something new. Some of the pumpkins are more spectacular than others, but they are all amazing.”

Flesh on the pumpkins can be up to two inches thick, “so you really have to learn how to get the dimensions and different levels of light,” Lipson said. “People definitely learn and come back. Some of them are wood-carvers, some are painters, some do other media. What is really fun is they come from all different backgrounds, and they all bring different tools.”

The artists are given an honorarium, but no money prize. “It’s not a competitive thing,” Lipson said. “They are very cooperative with each other. They help each other.”

The carvers will be in illuminated tents. Weather permitting, firepits will be lit for roasting s’mores and hearing storytellers relay spooky stories. Live bands are scheduled to play Friday and Saturday.

Admission is $5-$15, at the gate or in advance, for the walk-through. Drive-through prices are $30 per vehicle. Hours are 6-9 p.m. Wednesday and 5-9 p.m. Thursday; 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 6-9 p.m. Sunday. Visit hvartscouncil.org/amazingpumpkincarve/ for more information.

“This is a fabulous family event,” said Lipson. “We’ve been doing it for eight years, and it just keeps getting better.”