The Great Pumpkin Carve is THE anticipated event of the fall season in the Brandywine Valley of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Set aside any preconceived notion you may have of jack-o-lanterns with triangle eyes and a saw tooth smile. The 400 pound vegetable specimens serve as a canvas for artists, sculptors, and anyone up for the challenge of creating an artistic pumpkin masterpiece.
This event has true artistic roots. In the 1970’s renowned local American artists Andrew Wyeth, his son Jamie Wyeth, and other area artists were convinced to carve some pumpkins to decorate the nearby Chadds Ford Inn. From these not so humble artistic beginnings grew an annual three day festival that is greatly anticipated by the whole community. Over 60 carvers come together and in four hours take a blank, round 400 pound orange canvas and turn it into a distinctive interpretation of their artistic vision.
All three nights are open for the public to view these unique creations. But carve night is really for and about the pumpkin carvers. It is not uncommon to have participants that have been taking part in this event for many years. For some it has become a family tradition – in some cases three generations taking an active part, even if only to cheer on the work or provide refreshments. For others it is just an opportunity for friends to get together to be creative and have fun. And then of course there are the serious artists – the lone carvers, focused and working “in the zone” of their creativity. There are also a few who use the medium to unabashedly promote their business. It’s all in good fun and the competition is friendly. And it makes for an entertaining show.
The style of the carving designs is as unique and varied as you might see in a museum of fine art. Some are as delicate as a painting and the patterns only show themselves as the evening grows darker and the pumpkin is lit from within. Others are three dimensional sculptures that only distantly resembled the original vegetable shape they started from. And then there are those that are more of an engineering project rather than a simple carve.
The tools and carving techniques are as varied as the final products they generate. From toothpicks and bamboo skewers, to the tools used in fine pottery making, to sharp chisels that should have been back home in the woodworker’s shop, to the big-gun power tools. There are knives and saws of all shapes and sizes and kitchen implements galore – whatever it takes to achieve the desired outcome.
The work styles are also as diverse as you might expect from such a large gathering of creative minds. Some have a loose,
unplanned, whatever-happens approach, while others approach it with the precision and planning of a plastic surgeon. The end results are pumpkins that are creative, scary, cute, ingenious, impressive, pretty, amazing, original and just plain fun to look at.
As with all festivals, there are other activities as well. A scarecrow contest, painted pumpkin contest, food, music, hayrides, arts and crafts for the kids, and more. All the proceeds from this event go to fund the non-profit Chadds Ford Historical Society which uses the funds to maintain the historic properties for which they are responsible.
For the most up to date Chadds Ford Great Pumpkin Carve information visit https://www.greatpumpkincarve.com/
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