Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Night of 1,000 Jack-O-Lanterns
"My wife is going to count how many pumpkins there actually are, and if they have fewer than 1,000, she's going to file a class action lawsuit," I said, to our friends as we entered the Chicago Botanic Gardens' "Night of 1,000 Jack-o-Lanterns."
Kinda lame, as far as wry remarks go. But I was a bit nervous—coming here was my idea, and I really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. The Botanic Garden began this event in 2016, and it wasn't on my radar at all, even though we're members. but the bag of swag they gave me for judging the Spooky Pooch contest earlier this month not only contained a way cool Chicago Botanic Garden members' baseball cap (Sorry CARA Program, you've been displaced) but a quartet of tickets to this event, a $72 value.
So we asked some friends who had invited us to dinner whether they wanted to take a field trip afterward, and they gamely agreed.
The smattering of small, regular-sized pumpkins soon gave way to ... what can I call them? Show pumpkins. Huge, intricately-carved pumpkins, dozens and dozens of them, lit from within and so skillfully done we wondered if lasers weren't involved—I decided that had to be impossible, given the uneven surface of the pumpkins.
The ornately carved pumpkins were grouped thematically: first Dia del Muertos pumpkins, followed by "Botanimals," animals whose names were also parts of the names of plants, like the "Dandelion" at left. Classic movie monsters, even notable Chicago gargoyles. There were pumpkin carving experts showing off their art, and scattered food stands and bars.
I was amazed at how mobbed the place was—the thing is sold out this year. Which might be disappointing, individually, but does carry some general good news: despite the grip of social media around our throats, lots of families will still turn out to ogle well-decorated pumpkins.