Monday, August 29 2022 1:45

Gourd-geous Pumpkins in Chester County

Written by Elizabeth Hughes

Carve or paint your pumpkins for Halloween fun

October is here, so Halloween is just around the corner. Time to stock up on candy, put together your costume and, of course, decorate for the season.

This year, do more than put out a few grocery store pumpkins on your doorstep. Instead, carve or paint your freshly-picked pumpkins. Here’s the lowdown on this quintessential Halloween activity, including its origins, where to see master pumpkin carvers at work and a new spin on this classic tradition.

Haunted Origins

The tradition of carving pumpkins originated centuries ago in Ireland, rooted in the legend of “Stingy Jack,” who tricked the Devil for personal gain. Barred from heaven or hell when he died, Jack was sent off into the night with only a burning coal to light his way. To help on his journey, he put the coal into a carved turnip and has been roaming the Earth ever since, becoming known as “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack O’Lantern.”

In Ireland and Scotland, people began carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes, placing them by doors and windows to ward off Jack and other evil spirits. Immigrants brought the tradition to the United States, using pumpkins, which are native to the New World, instead.

Pumpkin Picking and Carving

Join in this spooky tradition for fall fun for the whole family. Local farms and farm markets abound with pumpkins this time of year. Many pumpkin patches will let you pick your own pumpkins fresh off the vine, so you can find the perfect pumpkin for your Halloween.

The Great Pumpkin Carve

Some of our favorite spots include Highland Orchards in West Chester, Milky Way Farm in Chester Springs and Linvilla Orchards in Media. For more, check out “Give ‘Em Pumpkin to Talk About” in our October 2021 issue.

You can also bring your family (ages 8 and up) to Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill on Saturday, October 22 for their Pumpkin Carving Party. Come along to the workshop and learn to carve amazing pumpkins. Pumpkins and equipment is provided, as well as patterns and ideas to help you make a spectacular pumpkin. Register ahead of time on their website.

Need more inspiration? Head to the Chadds Ford Historical Society for The Great Pumpkin Carve, October 20–22. On Thursday, watch local artists transform over 70 giant pumpkins into Halloween masterpieces to be lit and displayed on Friday and Saturday. All three nights include a kid-friendly Haunted Trail, raffle prizes and live music, plus food, local craft beer and wine (the last two for the parents).

Pumpkin Carving 101

Ready to get carving? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Pick the right pumpkin. Look for one with smooth skin and minimal bumps. A flat front surface makes it easier to draw on your design and carve it out. Avoid pumpkins with soft, possibly rotting spots.
  • Safety first. To avoid accidents, use small, controlled motions when carving. Keep your hands dry so tools don’t slip from your hands. If kids are carving, have them use age-appropriate tools and always under supervision.

    Ramsey’s Farm
  • Plan your design. Save time, stress and mistakes by drawing your design on paper before transferring it to the pumpkin. Better yet, download pumpkin templates online and print out your favorites to use.
  • Keep it clean. Pumpkin carving can be messy. To minimize cleanup, put down newspaper or a drop cloth before you begin.
  • Skip the candles. Avoid fire hazards and messy wax by lighting your jack-o-lantern with LED tealights. Get flameless candles that flicker or look like melting wax.
  • Preserve your pumpkins. To keep your jack-o-lantern looking its best, apply petroleum jelly to the carvings to prevent them from drying out and rotting.
  • Keep squirrels at bay. Stop squirrels from eating the fruits of your labor by sprinkling household spices on your pumpkin. Squirrels hate hot stuff, so hot sauce, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes work great.

Painting Pumpkins

For a modern spin on this Halloween tradition, consider painting your pumpkins instead. A safe, easy alternative to carving, painting is a great option for families with young children — plus, painted pumpkins last much longer than their carved counterparts!

Merrymead Farm

Don’t want to make a mess of your house? Visit local farms and events that offer pumpkin painting. Every weekend in October, head to Lansdale’s Merrymead Farm for their 39th annual Fall Harvest Days, chock full of fall activities like hayrides, a cornstalk tunnel, kiddie wagon trail and pumpkin painting. The pumpkin patch at Ramsey’s Farm in Wilmington has a pumpkin painting station, as well as a corn maze, barnyard animals and a “Spookley the Square Pumpkin” themed maze for younger kids.

On October 1, the Fall Harvest Festival returns at Newlin Grist Mill in Glen Mills. Though the event is known for its 18th-century trade demonstrations and food, there’s plenty for the kids to do, including hayrides, puppet shows and pumpkin painting.


Whether you carve or paint your pumpkins this fall, we guarantee you’ll have some scary good fun!