BEST BETS: Great Delaware Pumpkin Carve a cut above at Quillen Arena

Philadelphia-area sculptor and professional pumpkin carver Patrick Cabry shows off one of his recent creations. Mr. Cabry will judge tonight’s pumpkin carving contest at the Great Delaware Pumpkin Carve Festival in Harrington, along with demonstrating his work and sharing tips all weekend.

Gone are the days when carving a pumpkin consisted of a few triangles and some jagged teeth. These days, pumpkin carving is big business, with monstrous creations formed on gourds weighing hundreds of pounds and sometimes multiple pumpkins forming one huge opus.

This weekend, the first Great Delaware Pumpkin Carve Festival, presented by the Biggs Museum of American Art and the Delaware State Fair, will take the popular Halloween activity to a whole new level at the Quillen Arena in Harrington.

The festival will begin with the pumpkin carving competition today at 4 p.m. when the 50 enrolled carvers and their teams meet their assigned pumpkins, weighing between 150 and 300 pounds, for the first time and begin carving under the watchful eye of festival spectators who are invited to attend beginning at 5 p.m.

The pumpkins will be judged later that evening for prizes. Then continuing on Saturday, the public is invited to cast their vote to select a “people’s choice” winner as pumpkins will be displayed on hay bales throughout the grounds.

The two days of fun will also include local fall food and drinks, camping opportunities costume contests, trick-or-treating, hayrides, a bonfire, kid-friendly pumpkin crafts, spooky bumper cars on ice, a sandcastle made on site and more.

But the pumpkins are the real stars of the show and artist Patrick Cabry will be your guide through it all, both as judge and demonstrator throughout the weekend.

Mr. Cabry is a Philadelphia-area sculptor and teacher. But when he isn’t planning his next installation or schooling students about art history, he’s busy transforming a pumpkin into a work of art.

A winner of various prestigious contests such as The Great Pumpkin Carve of Chadds Ford (Pa.), which this year celebrated its 43rd edition, Mr. Cabry said the world of competitive pumpkin carving is growing every year.

Ray Blanchette strings lights above pumpkin-carving stations Wednesday in the Quillen Arena at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s a crazy market for pumpkin carvers. There are competitions popping up all over — Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Philadelphia, New York. It’s a new rising market and it’s really still being sorted out,” he said.

He said he sees a lot of the same faces at these events and some are more competitive than others. He says one of this goals is to form an artists’ collective of carvers.

“It’s an untapped marketplace and people really don’t even know their value as carvers. Places contact us directly, sometimes to carve for a competition and sometimes it’s free for charity,” he said.

“I’m hoping to get everyone together to keep people organized and informed and create unity between artists.”

Mr. Cabry said Halloween has now become the second-highest grossing holiday after Christmas and television shows such as “Halloween Wars” have helped boost the popularity of pumpkin carving.

Mr. Cabry devotes the month of October to his carving to help support his art work, whether he is a judge, competitor or demonstrator.

Submitted photo
Artist and Great Delaware Pumpkin Carve Festival “celebrity carver” Patrick Cabry produced this carving of a pumpkin man working on his own creation.

“I’m all over the place every day of the week. I look at my calendar and one day I’m in Philadelphia, one day Chadds Ford, this weekend Delaware,” he said noting that he was headed to New Jersey to do a demonstration at a senior center this past Wednesday.

Many of his creations feature portraits and use much of the pumpkin —”guts” and all.

“It’s really a matter of pulling it apart, dismantling it and putting it back together,” he said.

“I try to hollow it out as little as possible and figure out how I can take away as much of the pumpkin while still utilizing the entire pumpkin structure.”

And although his works of art don’t stick around very long, he doesn’t mind. An artist with an environmental focus, he says pumpkin carving is all about the circle of life.

“They blossom in a few hours like a rose and within a few days, the flies eat it and it turns to mush and it goes into the ground and, in time, becomes a pumpkin all over again,” he says philosophically.

He says he uses a spray mister throughout the carve to keep the pumpkins from drying out and the spaghetti-like innards from turning to rubber.

He’ll share those tips and more throughout the weekend but he stresses that more than anything, the activity should be fun.

“I think people can relate to this because everyone has tried to carve a pumpkin at home,” he said.

“My family does a carving contest every year that’s pretty competitive but it’s more about hanging out and being together. That’s what it’s all about.”

A variety of food trucks and foods will be available at the event both days: K&R Concessions will bring candy apples, pretzels and flavored kettle corn. Bonz will have hot dogs and hamburgers available; Fifer Orchards will bring their popular apple cider and apple cider donuts. Pizza Capo will have wood-fire pizza, cheesesteaks, sausage sandwiches, chicken tenders and more. Casapulla’s Subs will join in on Saturday with subs and steaks. And for those 21 and over, seasonal alcohol beverages will be offered.

Kids will be able to enjoy a Mini Hay Maze and Jack-Be-Little’s Pumpkin Craft for the first 1,000 children.

A costume contest is open to all ages. Sign-in will begin on Saturday at 3 p.m. with judging at 4.

Face painting will also be available on Saturday starting at 3 p.m.

Andrew West created this sand sculpture of the “Delaware Sandman” wrestling with a pumpkin. Mr. West and fellow award-winning sandcastle artist Darrell O’Connor will be at the Great Delaware Pumpkin Carve throughout the weekend, making their own Halloween-themed works.

Trick-or-treating will go on at the Grove campsite and Centre Ice Rink starting at 5 p.m. Saturday.

There will be approximately 20 Delaware By Hand artists and crafters with booths at the festival.

Over at the Centre Ice Rink spooky bumper cars on ice will provide a thrill from 8 to 10 p.m. today and on Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m.

As an added attraction, award-winning sandcastle builders Andrew West and Darrell O’Connor will be making Halloween-themed creations all weekend and demonstrating their techniques.

Tickets at the gate are $10 per day for those ages 13 and over, $4 for ages 6-12 and free for kids 5 and under. Weekend passes are $12 for ages 13 and over and $5 children ages 6-12.

Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. today and 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

For more information and contest rules, visit DelawarePumpkinCarve.com.

Halloween events

•Walter L Fox American Legion Ladies Auxiliary invites all costume-wearing youngsters with empty treat bags to its annual Trunk or Treat on Saturday at the outdoor pavilion of 835 South Bay Road, Dover from 4 to 7 p.m.

There will be hot dogs, refreshments, pumpkin decorating, games along with the treats.

Children 12 and under are free, all others pay $3.

For information, contact Ank Parisan at 824-4648

•Kent County Parks and Recreation’s Fright Night at Brecknock Park in Camden wraps up today and Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. with a haunted walk through dozens of scary scenes.

The Fright Night fee is $8 per person regardless of age.

Brandon McClements was Pennywise at a past Fright Night at Brecknock Park. The thrills and chills wrap up this weekend. (Delaware State News file photo/Marc Clery)

•Goodies and Goblins will be held Saturday from 5 to 6:15 p.m. at Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village, 866 N. DuPont Highway, Dover.

The family event is sponsored each year by the Kiwanis Club of Dover and the Delaware Agricultural Museum. Children in costumes will participate in trick or treating in the museum’s 1890s village and in a costume contest. Contest winners will be announced at 6:15 p.m.

Admission to the event is $1 per person.

•Dover Mall will hold a “Vampirina”-themed Disney Junior Play Date event on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. where families will participate in a variety of activities, including free face painting. The event will be held in the Promotional Court in front of Kay Jewelers.

• Tonight’s Dover Police Department and Downtown Dover Partnership’s annual Trick-or-Treat event on Legislative Mall has been canceled due to threat of bad weather.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the action-adventure “Hunter Killer” and the romantic comedy “London Fields.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me” and the horror film “Slender Man.”

To share news of your entertainment event, venue or group, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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