If you've been to the infamous Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in the last decade, you've likely seen the work of Arbor's own Jon Conway! Jon is one of our Cranston Branch's most requested Associate and is passionate about working with children with developmental needs. He is also a creative artist and one of the master carvers for the Spectacular. Jon sat down with Associate Staffing Coordinator Andrea Corado to bring us the behind the scenes scoop! Check out the interview below these amazing designs!
Q: Out of the 5,000 or so pumpkins displayed throughout the Spectacular how many pumpkins have you carved this season? Most of the 5,000 pumpkins are jack-o'-lanterns. We have around 120 intricate pumpkins on display. Of those I have done 13. But these pumpkins rot and need to be replaced. We refer to this as a "round." We will have 4-5 rounds of pumpkins. By the end of this year I will hopefully have done around 60.
Q: Does the carving of the pumpkins end once the Spectacular begins? Or does it continue throughout the season? I will be carving pumpkins until the first week of November. The show runs through the month and the pumpkins rot. The pumpkins are continuously replaced as needed.
Q: The Spectacular has become a family tradition for many New Englanders over the years. How important is it to all involved to continue to provide this experience? Is there pressure to make the next season more Spectacular than the previous one? If there is any pressure for the show to be more spectacular, it is put on to ourselves. Personally, I enjoy a bit of competition with some of the artists.
Q: What is the Spectacular’s theme this year? How is the theme announced? The theme is "time travel". The theme is decided by our founder/creator, the "Lord of the Gourd" John Reckner. I believe he starts planning the next year the day show ends.
Q: What is your favorite design this year? How long did this design take to carve out? I have a group that I like. The theme is "time travel" and we go through some decades. I have been able to do some 80's and 90's themed pumpkins which has brought me back to those times. As far as how long does it take, the process usually goes that we draw out all of our pumpkins and then carve them at a later date. On average I take anywhere from 6-15 hours per pumpkin.
Q: Where does the carving take place? And do your family members/ friends join in on the pumpkin carving? So, we have two teams here. The park team and the pumpkin artists. The artist’s work in Oxford MA. We draw and carve them in Oxford then load into a box truck down to Roger Williams Park Zoo where they are then gutted and fitted for a light. I do bring my kids, especially my daughter. We have to train the next generation of pumpkin carvers!
Q: How did you become involved with this event?I know a guy. Just kidding, kind of. I moved to Oxford MA when I was a teenager and became friends with people that worked with or knew the family that put on the show (back then it was in Oxford). Over time I carved a few pumpkins for them here and there. Then about ten years ago I started working for them every year.
Q: What happens to all the pumpkins once the season is over?! They are brought to compost.
The Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular is running now through November 5th.
Do you have a secret talent or know anyone connected to Arbor who does? Let us know!