Years ago, when I lived in California, my friends held an annual Halloween party that featured a pumpkin contest. They asked me to be the “chief judge,” an honor I was thrilled to embrace, primarily because my own pumpkin-carving abilities are virtually nil.
I know a great pumpkin when I see it, but forget about my actually creating one that goes beyond the primitive visages I struggled to hack out in early elementary school, only to discover that some trick-or-treating art critic had smashed my paltry efforts in the street.
The competition at my friends’ parties started out innocently enough, but grew fiercer by the year (many of the participants were lawyers). Before long there were pumpkins carved like Faberge eggs. Uncanny portraits of political figures of the day. Huge pumpkins that opened up to reveal intricate, miniature worlds, like dollhouses or dioramas. One year there was even a witty pumpkin installation built with cans of pumpkin pie filling
Judging was no picnic, I must say, and some of the pumpkin artists spurned the justice I meted out as blind. To make matters worse, one of the categories was dubbed “the lawyers’ division,” in which the creator of any pumpkin that had not won in another category could argue why it should have. I’d hate to face any of them in court.
I imagine many of these pumpkin creators have gone on to enter contests with more prestige — and better judges. This all came to mind when I discovered some of the winners of the annual pumpkin carving contest at ThisOldHouse.com. Amazing what spectacular feats some people can achieve with a simple orange gourd.