Jack O’Lantern Spectacular celebrates its 10th anniversary


An overview of the warehouse where the artists create the illustrations and carvings.

Jackson Jones

During the month of October, over 5,000 beautifully carved pumpkins from talented artists across the city line an Iroquois Park trail. This event, the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular, is a relatively new tradition in Louisville. This year, it celebrates its 10th anniversary. 

Christine Puryear, one of the artists, explained the process that it takes to create one of the many elaborate jack o’lanterns featured at the event. 

“For me, it takes about an hour to get the image together, figure out what I’m going to do, and where I’m going to place things on the pumpkin,” Puryear said. “I would say drawing is going to take about 4 to 5 hours typically.” 

Puryear goes on to describe how the amount of time spent on carving depends on the type of illustration on the pumpkin, like the line work and detail. Pumpkins with a lot of line work usually take a lot less time than those with lighter sketches to carve, considering that “the lightest parts are going to be carved pretty deep.”

“You’re not really using a knife where you cut all the way through; you’re more like scooping parts out like you’re shaving it. Carvingit depends because everyone has their own style. For me, carving doesn’t take nearly as long because I like most of the work to be done by the drawing.”

Interestingly enough, Puryear claims that before she worked for the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular she didn’t have much pumpkin carving experience. However, she was a proficient artist and spent most of the year painting portraits. In fact, most of the pumpkin carvers were already artists beforehand and could translate those skills onto a different type of canvas: a pumpkin. 

Puryear also went into detail about the history of the event. Despite being a Louisville tradition, the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular didn’t originate in Kentucky. Travis Reckner, a co-founder of the event, grew up in Oxford, Massachusetts. His father was an excellent pumpkin carver, and each year he would display his pumpkins on his porch for the neighborhood to admire. Over time, Travis’s father would draw quite a large crowd, so the city requested that he move the event to a bigger space. As the attraction gained more popularity, the event continued to grow. 

Eventually, they scouted for a new area to hold the event and found Iroquois Park in Louisville. The trail was the perfect spot, so in 2013 the first Jack O’Lantern Spectacular in Louisville took place. 

Ever since its beginnings in 2013, the event has been a huge supporter of the parks system. The Jack O’Lantern Spectacular is actually the single largest fundraiser for the Louisville Parks Association. Most of the proceeds are directly invested right back into the parks and the community.

Overall, the event is a vital part of Louisville and is one of the many things that makes the city unique. It’s truly a magical experience as visitors walk the trail and appreciate the hard work and dedication that the artists put into each pumpkin. For more information, visit their website.