Since the early 19th century, pumpkins have been synonymous with Halloween. Originally carved with grotesque faces to represent goblins and ghouls, they were lit and placed outside home entrances to ward off the undead. Macabre, right?
Thankfully, Halloween’s now a holiday most of us embrace for the costumes and candy. Of course, the lowly pumpkin has come a long way too. Toothy grins and triangles for a nose and eyes? They just don’t “cut” it anymore. These days the pumpkin has become a fun canvas used by people to express themselves artistically. You need look no further than Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village to see exactly how far we’ve come. evolved
The only pumpkin event of it’s kind in Canada, Pumpkinferno is receiving accolades from all over. In it’s first year, it was named Ontario’s Best New Event and last year it was recognized as the Ontario Tourism Event of the Year. With honours like that you can’t help but wonder: what the heck has been done with the pumpkins? Let’s just say that your doorstep masterpiece probably can’t compete.
Under the direction of Liam Mills, a 23-year-old local artist, Upper Canada Village has carved out a unique celebration that is quickly becoming a fall classic in the Ottawa region. Liam is responsible for all the creative designs, as well as expanding and growing the displays each year. In 2013, 6000 pumpkins lit up the night. They ranged from the whimsical (an Under the Sea motif complete with mermaids and scuba divers) and the beautiful (a dragon displayed over water) to the awe-inspiring (a House of Horoscopes, where visitors look up to the starry skies to find their signs).
This year the pumpkin count will grow to 8500, with one highlight being Noah’s Ark, complete with elephants and giraffes marching two by two. Of course, the sheer size of this annual event means the pumpkin carving doesn’t start in September. As you may have guessed, the pumpkins are not real, but rather foam molds. The work however is 100 per cent hand carved. From the time you pulled out your patio furniture until you put it away this year, four artisans have worked full time to get Pumpkinferno ready for the estimated 38,000 guests who will weave their way through over 35 unique displays.
For the pumpkin purists, don’t miss the Young Artist’s Pumpkin Patch. It engages local youth to contribute their best pumpkin creations. Local schools in the area take turns in the spotlight, with pumpkins rotated throughout the event.
Unlike most Halloween attractions, Pumpkinferno keeps the gore to a minimum making it a truly family-friendly event for all ages. There is no need to worry about little ones seeing more than they can handle. Of course, you could also leave the kids at home because Pumpkinferno also makes a pretty great destination for a date. Make a night out of it by booking a table at Willards, where delicious fall comfort foods such as chicken pot pie and apple rhubarb crumble await. If you’d like to move along a little faster, quick dining options can be found at The Harvest Barn.
At a nice, leisurely pace, it takes just about an hour to complete the whole circuit of pumpkin displays. Dress warmly as there can be a bit of a breeze off the water in Morrisburg. Pumpkinferno runs on select nights from October 3 to November 1. See uppercanadavillage.com for exact times, dates and directions.
As for teens, grownups and brave souls looking for a scare-your-socks off road trip, head to Kingston—if you dare. From October 2 to November 1, the Limestone City’s historic Fort Henry gets really (reaaaaallly) creepy. Steeped in history, the 180-year-old fort is full of character(s) and they all come out after dark during the spooky season. This show runs Thursday to Sunday from October 2 to October 19 and nightly from October 23 to November 1. For details and tickets, see www.forthenry.com.