Adalynne McCord ran up and down the rows of carved pumpkins Friday night at the Penn State Arboretum’s H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens while she “oohed” and “aahed.”
Some pumpkins were carved with tradition jack-o’lantern faces, while others were sculpted like a pirate, Batman, and had a logo of a saint, the Nittany Lion, Pittsburgh penguin, and more.
“Look, Mommy, the pumpkins are on fire,” Adalynne, 5, said to her mother Carrie McCord. “They look so pretty.”
A record 443 pumpkins were on display for the third annual Pumpkin Festival, said Shari Edelson, director of horticulture at The Arboretum. The garden shone brightly during the pumpkin lighting ceremony, which drew about 2,000 people.
The festival will continue Saturday with activities such as live entertainment, refreshments, and corn husk doll and scarecrow making.
On Friday, a panel of judges voted on the best pumpkins.
“They’re all so creative,” said judge Elizabeth Goreham, State College’s mayor. “We’re really looking for creativity and originality, and something that represents Halloween and the fall season.”
Nine-year-old Lukena Petrunina won the Best in Show award as two dozen others were awarded ribbons in seven categories. Winners will be able to pick up their pumpkins and ribbons on Sunday.
Lukena’s pumpkin was tilted so the stem acted as the nose on the face of the jack’o’-lantern, which had slanted eyes and ears that stuck out made from the remnants of the pumpkin.
“We evaluate all the pumpkins and try to give a good representation to those we think are the best,” said Patrick Williams, director of development at The Arboretum.
The Christensen family moved to State College this year from Arizona. Dane Christensen said this was a nice way to bring the family together and have some fun.
His son Zade, 3, and daughter Aria, 5, both entered the contest this year. Zane won third-place in his category as he carved a monster face on his pumpkin.
“It’s a good way to spend some time together and get the kids motivated,” Dane Christensen said.
The festival is able to continue each year with the financial help of the Vargo family, Edelson said.
“We like to think of The Arboretum as an open space to the public and that it transcends the university and brings the community together to celebrate,” Edelson said.