Pumpkins have been lighting up Iroquois Park the past several weeks at Louisville’s first Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular. With only two weekends remaining, the fall event has produced the most intricate, creative art show by displaying over 5000 illuminating jack-o’-lanterns carved mostly by local artists. Beginning at Iroquois Amphitheater, the quarter-mile trail weaves through the park and is lighted only by the glow from the jack-o’-lanterns. Displays decorated with different themes are set to music and rotate every few days. Families can visit every week to enjoy different scenes. Proceeds from Jack-O’-Lantern Spectacular benefit Louisville Metro Parks Foundation and Kosair Charities.
The theme last night was Around the World, and the meticulously-carved jack-o’-lanterns provided just that experience. Beginning with the Caribbean, I listened to reggae music on my journey to the next country. After a trip through Egypt and Africa, I came upon more familiar sites as I passed the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. I heard lively Irish tunes as I passed the painted Guinness jack-o’-lantern, followed by a fierce dragon in Asia. The children on the trail were excited to see some of their favorites: the Cardinal Bird and SpongeBob.
This amazing event does have visitors wondering where and how this extravaganza began. Creator, John Reckner, had an idea for a one-night fundraiser for his town of 10,000 people back in 1988 in Oxford, Massachusetts. A simple idea of carving and lighting 200 pumpkins soon led to the unimaginable. Passion for Pumpkins, Inc., a multimedia production company, was born and now 25 years later, the event is bigger than ever annually held at the zoo in Roger Williams Park in Providence, Rhode Island.
Jim Wood, President and CEO of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, had the same vision for the Possibility City. Wheels were put in motion, and in August, a team from Passion for Pumpkins, Inc. arrived in Louisville to begin constructing the set and lining the trail at Iroquois Park. Erika Nelson, Community Relations Administrator for Louisville Metro Parks, confirmed that Louisville is the first city to host this event outside of Providence.
Travis Reckner, the son of John Reckner, is thrilled to bring the event to another city. “The setting at Iroquois is really, really special. It’s like the glass slipper,” Reckner said. After hiring almost 40 local artists and working with the Parks Department, Travis is delighted with the incredible partnership established between Passion for Pumpkins and the Louisville community. “I was really blown away with the talent of artists here,” added Reckner. The event has not gone by without challenges. Due to the warm weather in the beginning, almost 600 pumpkins perished within the first week, but fortunately for the survival of the jack-o’-lanterns, temperatures turned colder. Since this was Louisville’s first year for the event, most of the pumpkins were transported from upstate New York, Northern Ohio and the Amish in Pennsylvania. However, local sources have been researched to use for the future. Reckner believes the Spectacular in Iroquois Park is “without question, our best display”.
Jack-o’-lanterns will be on display at Iroquois Park through Saturday, November 2, 2013. According to Mike Slaton, General Manager of Iroquois Amphitheater, approximately 20,000 visitors have already attended. He estimates 30,000 to 35,000 visitors by the closing next Saturday. Artists have been diligently working nonstop to replace any pumpkins that have spoiled. “Over 15,000 pumpkins will be carved,” Slaton added. He suggests coming out when it is fully dark to truly enjoy the illumination.
Tickets may be purchased on-line or at the box office. Check the website for prices and hours, or call (502) 363-7766. Iroquois Amphitheater is located at 1080 Amphitheater Road in Louisville, Ky. A special admission price after 10 p.m. is offered for $10 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Louisville is proud to add another Spectacular to their growing list of family events. With just one week left, the clock is ticking!