LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Looking for a way to get in the Halloween spirit? The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is returning to Iroquois Park for the sixth year. The spirited tradition that began on the east coast is now benefiting Louisville in a big way.
Each night at dusk, a path is carved through the darkness and lights up the forest. Iroquois Park comes to life now through All Hallows' Eve. "Each pumpkin is anywhere from four to eight to 12 hours for just a drawing alone. Carving could be another three to six hours. So, it's a labor of love," says Mathew Sciannameo, Art Director and Pumpkin Carver.
Behind the park is Pumpkinville. Staging for the sixth annual Louisville Jack-O-Lantern began in June. "We have Lincoln. We have Barbara Bush, we have an underwater scene for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a cardinal for Kentucky," Sciannameo said.
Sciannameo travels to Louisville every year for the show. He and and his two friends started the very first spectacular behind their high school in Massachusetts. "The state police came up to us and said, 'Hey, you guys can't do this here anymore. You clogged up the Mass Turnpike eight miles in either direction,'" Sciannameo said.
A few decades later, thanks to another friend from Louisville, the giant tradition expanded. Similar to Oxford, Massachusetts, it took no time for locals to get in on the pumpkin frenzy. "This is what we started, but on steroids," Sciannameo said.
The show is The Louisville Parks Foundation's biggest fundraiser. "This is an extraordinarily popular show across the country and we do have a lot of people who travel to Louisville to see it. Those folks are coming on Friday and Saturday night. So, for the locals, come on Sunday through Thursday," said Brooke Pardue, CEO for Louisville Parks Foundation.
It takes a team of 40 artists to make it happen. Together, they will intricately carve 141 pumpkins. "Nick out those little whiskers on that cat or the eyelashes on Marilyn Monroe. Those little subtleties really kind of create that illusion that we're aiming for in this show," Sciannameo said.
This year's theme is "A Night at the Library." "It's real broad. So, we can incorporate all of everything that's been on this planet some way and fashion into the show," Sciannameo said.
The artists will be working through opening night on Tuesday and beyond. "I will be right here gutting pumpkins," Sciannameo said.
Several pumpkins are on deck for the rest of the month. "Fruit flies, squirrels, mold, they all basically send our pumpkins to the grave. The rot will catch up to our inventory. The bullets start flying, and that's when I'll tell my artists, 'Okay, we need an Abraham Lincoln today. So, draw and carve," Sciannameo said.
This team wouldn't have it any other way in creating an evening of magic. "We are really, to sum it up, changing the world, one pumpkin at a time. Everybody that comes through the show, whether they're aware of it or not, something happens inside of them, inspiration, some sort of happiness, something just bubbles up," Sciannameo said.
So far $1 million has been raised for the Louisville Parks Foundation, helping to create playgrounds and a skate park.
The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular begins on Tuesday and ends Nov. 4.
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