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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Over 5,000 carved and lit pumpkins at the Jack-O-Lantern spectacular event at the Minnesota Zoo.

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is back at the Minnesota Zoo with over 5,000 carved grilled pumpkins on a quarter-mile open trail.

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, which runs until November 7, first arrived in Minnesota in the fall of 2018. Making the event what it is today is thanks to the growing relationship between the zoo and Passion for Pumpkins.

Passion for Pumpkins is a pumpkin carving organization that produces pumpkin products for events across the country. Passion for Pumpkins currently operates events in Providence, Rhode Island and Louisville, Kentucky, in addition to one in Minnesota.

Zak Nugent, communications and media specialist at the Minnesota Zoo, said the partnership with Passion for Pumpkins was ideal given the zoo’s hopes of welcoming guests in the fall.

“We didn’t see a lot of people come to visit (in October),” Nugent said. “So we wanted to find an activity that encourages people to go outside to interact with nature and connect with the Minnesota Zoo.”

The event could have taken place in 2018 and 2019, but was stopped in the fall of 2020 due to the pandemic.

Passion for Pumpkins co-owner Travis Reckner said it was encouraging to return to staging an event in Minnesota in 2021.

“Just getting back to some sense of normalcy is incredible. I can’t tell you how many people are just grateful and grateful that we do this, ”Reckner said.

The theme of the Jack-O’-Lantern performance changes every year. This year’s theme is “Pumpkins: from A to Z”. For this theme, over 125 carved pumpkins are grouped alphabetically. A stands for Alice in Wonderland, B stands for Birds and Bees, and so on. Other categories include vampires, pop culture, Halloween, and dinosaurs.

One of the most important letters promoted at the event is “C” – for conservation. Nugent said the theme of the event regularly aims to highlight the zoo’s conservation efforts and respect for nature.

“We want to make sure the carved pumpkins are really related to the conservation efforts of which the Minnesota Zoo is a part,” Nugent said. “The passion for pumpkins was fantastic as we worked with us to really make sure that what they produce is not just art, but art that ties into the mission of the Minnesota Zoo.”

Previous topics at the zoo: Walk in Time and Around the World.

Every year, a group of local Minnesota artists work for Passion for Pumpkins to create pumpkin art. New gourds need to be cut to replace gourds every few days that have been affected by decay, weather, and animal interference.

With over 125 intricately carved pumpkins and over 5,000 lanterns lining the trail and in the trees, this means artists walk through tens of thousands of pumpkins in just over a month.

This year, about 25 Minnesota artists are working at the Minnesota Zoo, which has been emptied to function as an art studio. Roughly half of them were new to pumpkin art, and Rechner said it was fun to see these artists transfer their artistic abilities to a unique canvas.

“They are all really experienced, wonderful artists who have an incredible portfolio, but they never did it with a 120 to 150 pound pumpkin,” Reckner said. “It’s really great … to see how every week or every round when they make a new pumpkin, they get better and better.”

Jack-o-lantern Spectacular

The Minnesota Zoo’s Jack-O’-Lantern spectacle features over 5,000 carved pumpkins. (Courtesy of the Minnesota Zoo)
  • When: From 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on November 7th.
  • Where: Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley
  • Tickets: USD 24-16; advance online tickets are required at mnzoo.org.
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