Jack-O-Lanterns grow and glow at McLaughlin Garden

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By Erin Place

PARIS—Community members are invited to help light the night in the Halloween spirit this weekend as part of the second annual Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at McLaughlin Garden and Homestead in South Paris.

Last year, art students from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School carved multiple pumpkins to create a fire pit scene as part of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at McLaughlin Garden and Homestead in South Paris.
Last year, art students from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School carved multiple pumpkins to create a fire pit scene as part of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at McLaughlin Garden and Homestead in South Paris.

The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, at the garden at 97 Main St. Marcia Hilton, interim director at McLaughlin Garden, says the format of the event will follow the same as last year’s with pumpkin carving galore and a tour through the grounds.

“We then put them out in the garden and they walk a path. It’s fun. It was very well received last year,” she says about the pumpkins and the event, respectively. “This was sort of the brain child of the program committee as a way to actually expose more people to the garden.”

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children ages six through 17 and free for children five and younger, and includes free hot cider and popcorn. Anyone who donates a jack-o-lantern to the event by Thursday, Oct. 23, will be granted free admission, she said.

But new this year is the storytelling event. Otisfield author Henry Hamilton will be on hand this weekend to read from his book, “Night Full Frightful: A Collection of Spooky Rhymes.” With him he’ll bring original illustrations from Maine artist Patricia Chandler. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and most stories are appropriate for children eight through 14. The readings will be held at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the barn.

Hilton says more than 200 people attended the spectacular last year and they’re hoping for even more for the second rendition. The majority of the pumpkins will be carved by middle school students from Oxford Hills, along with students from Hebron Academy, Boxberry School, homeschoolers and an art group from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

“They did some really neat ones,” Hilton says about the art students, referencing a display that included multiple pumpkins to create the image of a fire pit.

She estimates close to 300 pumpkins were carved last year.

“We’re trying to break that record,” Hilton says. “We’d like to get it up 500.”

The majority of the pumpkins come from Cooper Farms in West Paris. Other places, including Sunnycroft Farm in South Paris and McLaughlin Garden itself, had people grow pumpkins for this year’s event. Hilton says it was a tough pumpkin growing year and they’ve had some difficulty getting as many carvable gourds for 2014, but will get more before the event.

And next year, the plan is to get Robert’s Farm Preserve in Norway on board to grow pumpkins for the spectacular.

Hiltons says also on tap again this year are giant pumpkins, one of which will be carved. She wasn’t sure who grew them, but says they weigh between 400 and 500 pounds and a tractor is used to offload them at the garden.

“We’re trying to build a community about it,” Hilton says about the two day event.

For more information about the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, call McLaughlin Garden at 743-8820.

eplace@advertiserdemocrat.com