My Pumpkin-Intensive Halloween

Part 1

The Roger Williams Park and Zoo is a large (40 acres) popular zoo in Providence. Each October they host the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, a huge display of 5,000 carved, lit pumpkins placed along an outdoor trail. This Halloween evening I went and really enjoyed it. It’s billed as “one of the most brilliant displays of holiday artistry anywhere in the U.S.” and I can see why. You can read more about it (the following was copied from their website, the page was taken down when the display closed in early November) or jump right to the spooky pictures.

“Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular”

“…one of the most brilliant displays of holiday artistry anywhere in the U.S.”

The acclaimed Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular presented by Citizens Bank will return this October 3 through November 3 with a breathtaking display of 5,000 illuminated jack-o-lanterns representing regions of the U.S.A.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular 2013: Pumpkinville USA

The 2013 presentation, titled Pumpkinville, USA, will delight new and repeat visitors alike. Intricate pumpkin art will represent regions of the country, highlighting their unique attributes and as well as historical and cultural landmarks of each of the states. Regions will include Heartland of America, Pacific Coast, Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Appalachian Highlands. One scene will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and another will honor President Kennedy.

Show standards will return, such as the childhood favorites and Halloween scenes, and the show’s dazzling grand finale, the Laughing Tree. Hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns on the ground and high up in the trees surround carved giants (well over 1,000 pounds) amid spooky fog and music, punctuated by its iconic catchy beat and laughter.

Crews from Passion for Pumpkins, the show creators, will spend several weeks leading up to the event creating the magical display. Then, they will work nearly around the clock throughout the 32 night run to keep the show fresh for visitors.

How many pumpkins are there?

There are 5,000 pumpkins on display at any one time, all lit with LED lights.

Who carves the pumpkins?

The Spectacular was founded in 1988 by John Reckner, formerly an Oxford, Massachusetts mail carrier. Mr. Reckner, his family and friends continue to produce the show which first came to RWP Zoo in 2001 and returned to the Zoo in 2009 after a 4-year hiatus. This team of professional pumpkin carvers, called Passion for Pumpkins, spends 6 – 8 weeks creating the magical display set on the Zoo’s wetlands trail amid special lighting and themed music.

How do they keep the pumpkins in good shape for this long of a show?

They keep carving and enhancing the displays throughout the life of the show – the carvers expect to go through about 20,000 pumpkins during the course of the 30 day-run. At the end, the pumpkins are collected and composted.

What is the wait time to get on the pumpkin trail?

The wait to enter the pumpkin trail can extend to two hours on very busy evenings. Children and adults who have difficulty dealing with crowds and wait lines may find the event challenging if the evening is busy. For these individuals, Halloween and the following nights would be the best nights to attend.

Is the Spectacular weather dependent?

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is open rain or shine. Visitors are advised to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly for the evening. In the rare case of very severe weather, check the Zoo’s website at or call 401 785-3510 for notice of cancellation.

How long does it take to go through the Spectacular?

Once you arrive at the entrance to the Spectacular it takes about 45 minutes to walk through the show. Wait time to enter the show can vary, depending on attendance on any given night. On very busy nights the wait may be as much as two hours.

How many people attend the show?

Over 110,169 people attended the 2012 show, breaking the previous record of 107,646 people set in 2010.

The Spectacular has received rave reviews and national media attention for the one-of-a-kind, family friendly seasonal fun it offers. People come from all over New England, across the U.S. and beyond to enjoy the Spectacular.

What happens to the proceeds from the show?

The Spectacular is an important fund-raiser for Roger Williams Park Zoo. Proceeds from the event will support the Zoo’s environmental education and conservation efforts both locally and around the globe, plus Zoo improvements.”

On to the spooky pictures!