North Logan’s annual pumpkin walk means something different to everyone. Some just like to get out in the fall air. Others have to see the fall-time décor with their friends. Still more come for companionship, campfires, and cookies.
To those who contribute to the set-up, the take-down, the traffic management, the scene set-up and design, the pumpkin walk means a lot more.
Mostly, it means time.
The pumpkin walk doesn’t start on Oct. 14 for those folks. It starts weeks or months before. Even the year before to start planning. I know because my extended family has been involved with Pumpkin Walk since the days before it moved to Elk Ridge Park.
Every year, the Andersons, Borups and various cousins contribute at least one scene (more, depending on how many generations of cousins we count). To us the pumpkin walk means more than just time, it means tradition and family.
Our scene always starts with a planning session in September. There are certain criteria to meet for our scenes. They have to be fresh! And have music. The scenes have to be recognizable. And fun! Something with lots of possibilities. Animals are good. Mini-figures add depth. And what about the background?
The planning session is never easy because everyone comes with different ideas at the beginning. Through an hour or two of creative discussion, we settle on one idea that we can all contribute to.
Our scenes have included themes like the four seasons, trick-or-treating, an octopus’s garden, the national parks, and this year, our scene will be based on the children’s song “Down by the Bay.”
After planning, we divide and conquer. My job is the backdrop. Some years, I have to create a fresh three-panel mural. Sometimes I just have to touch up an older set. It can take me between two and 40 hours. This year I’m lucky; I’ll be reusing a backdrop of a lake-side scene that will only need a little touch-up after it’s all put together.
Don’t worry about me doing my share, though. There’s plenty more to do beforehand.
The pumpkin characters have to be designed and brought to life. Nedra and Tirzah are the costuming experts. Tirzah’s got pre-used bodies and parts in the barn. Nedra works for most of the month finding the right fabrics and creating patterns. The bear, the moose, the whale, and the fish all need individually made costumes and bodies. She makes them all by hand.
The next step is transforming gourds into character heads. Our family insists that the characters must be created in one style, so Kaylee does the drawings and we all paint her vision on various pre-primed pumpkins, zucchini, and squashes. Every able and trustworthy painter in the family is needed for that step.
During the pumpkin painting, the Halloween music is always rolling. Singing ensues.
This year, Paul and Beth’s kitchen was ground zero. One table held the art supplies, one held the drying pumpkins. The last table was surrounded by cousins wielding paintbrushes, laughing, and catching up with each other.
It’s a good time for us. A time to be forced to sit in one place and talk about things that go beyond the weather. We are all so busy, but this project takes all of our efforts to get it done. And all of us are happy to pitch in, especially when we get to enjoy good company while we work.
The combined efforts of the painting took about 50 hours this year. That doesn’t count the final spray-varnish that keeps the paint on the pumpkin despite rain or snow which always comes.
Starting Tuesday the 12th, set up is the task at hand. We will be at the park early to make sure the scene gets assembled properly and we have plenty of room for all our creations. We literally stake out spots for each character. Some will need a little rebar to support those pumpkin heads. Some will need a full-on fence post.
I’m in charge of the post pounding. Don’t worry, I work out. Placing the background, the corn for the edging, and the posts will only take part of the day.
Wednesday is the real work day and the park knows it. Everyone involved works on their scenes from sunup to sundown. Our family will wire character bodies to posts. The painted pumpkins will go on their posts and the bodies will be pinned into place.
That is the trickiest part. How do we face the characters so they can be seen, even at night? Which direction should they look? How will we make the rain-soaked bodies stay attached to the pumpkins in the wind? And the snow.
It takes the whole day. And when it is done, we are almost too exhausted to stand back and look at our masterpiece. Almost.
As evening falls fully into the night, we will take a few pictures. Even though the pumpkin walk won’t officially start until Thursday, we will linger over the hot chocolate, donuts, and pizza the organizers bring around. We will wander the mostly finished scenes to watch people putting on the finishing touches. We’ll take a deep breath, because in a few days we have to take it all down and put it away.
We do it every year. And every time we do it, something special happens. We get time together rebuilding family cohesion and strengthening our love for each other.
In the bargain, the community get something too. They get to walk by and enjoy the fruits of our labors with their loved ones, too.
For me, that’s time well spent.