Oct 31, 2013

Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow

DAYTON – Many years ago, Judy Chaffin, Dayton, envisioned ghoulishly glowing pumpkin lighting the perfect darkness of the McKinley Park located on Forest Avenue by the Dayton Art Institute. “When I moved onto Stoddard Ave., I thought, ‘Boy, if we put some over on the hill, how neat would that look?’” Judy reminisced. “I then asked my brother and his wife if they would help me and I went out and bought thirty-six pumpkins and, back then, I thought that was huge! So, we put them over there and people stopped by and seemed to really like them and that was really nice.”

The hill behind the Greek Orthodox Church seemed perfect. The idea seemed to grow all on its own. Judy shared how the pumpkin patch grew with each subsequent year that passed.

“The next year, we decided to go for a little more. We tried to increase it by twenty-five or so…we did seventy-five, then one hundred, then one hundred and twenty-five…it just kept going up and up and up.” With a wave, Judy said, “At some point, it just jumped up to three hundred, then four hundred, then five hundred and this year it has grown to over 850 pumpkins.

In the beginning, Judy would trek up towards Springfield each night after work to go through a local pumpkin farm, loading up her little Honda Civic with all that it would carry. After a few years, her brother helped her by loading up his van with the orange gourd-like squash. Eventually, she was referred to another Springfield area farmer who not only negotiated a fair price for the prestigious pumpkins, but more importantly…he delivered.

Neighbors and friends have joined into the mix, offering their services from gutting and cleaning to carving, placing and lighting the finished pumpkins. It became a neighborhood affair.

With every manner of carving displayed, the Pumpkin Glow has definitely grown, taking in the hearts and imaginations of people from far away cities who have heard about the extraordinary exhibit by word of mouth. The sheer logistics is staggering when one realizes how few people are involved in the actual process of cleaning and carving the pumpkins.

All 850 pumpkins are delivered to her home where they are washed. The following day is cutting day and all 850 get their tops cut off, a number is put on the top part of the pumpkin to correspond with the bottom portion. All pumpkins are gutted in one day. The two days before Halloween, Judy welcomes volunteers to come into her home and carve.

Every volunteer is welcomed with tools, pattern and a pumpkin. The atmosphere of all the workers was fun and enjoyable. This year Ladybug Garden Club members Irma Heiser and Charlene Thornhill helped Judy out with her dream.

The pumpkins are placed on the hill and about 4:30 or 5 p.m., they begin lighting them and they’ll stay lit well past midnight. They stay up for two days then are removed off the hill.

The Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow is an annual event that runs Oct. 30 and 31.


Shown are Ladybug Garden Club member Irma Heiser, Judy Chaffin of Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow, and Charlene Thornhill.

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