Spooky season may be coming to an end, but New Paltz is keeping with the tricks and treats right up until Halloween! Throughout town on Oct. 31, community members celebrated the holiday in many different ways.
One popular Halloween tradition is the “Night of 100 Pumpkins” hosted by The Bakery, located on N Front St.
The Bakery has been hosting “Night of 100 Pumpkins” for 28 years now, a contest where community members submit artistic pumpkin creations to be judged by a panel.
“Halloween was coming, and we were just kind of looking for something fun to do,” said David Santner, owner of The Bakery.
Santner’s wife, who was a kindergarten teacher at the time, came up with the idea for the contest.
To ensure that everyone can participate and keep the competition fair, submissions are judged in two separate groups: kids (which includes all entrants ages 16 and under) and adults (everyone else).
The pumpkins are then categorized for judging. Categories include: peculiar pumpkins, petrifying pumpkins, political pumpkins, pretty pumpkins, panoramic pumpkins, among others. In recent years, a “classic jack” category was added, to avoid exceptionally done classic carved pumpkins being overlooked.
Entrants can submit as many pumpkins as they’d like, and The Bakery gives out around 60 prizes each year.
“Many people and families submit pumpkins every year, and we watch the pumpkins improve as the kids get older and more skilled,” Santner said.
Throughout the years, Santner has seen a multitude of different pumpkin creations. He recounted a submission that was a plate of sushi made entirely out of pumpkins.
“I went over to Hokkaido, the sushi place next door, and they all came to see it,” Santner said. “I have pictures of them holding it and stuff. It was amazing, really.”
Another one of Santner’s personal favorites was a scene that took place on the Shawangunk Ridge, with rock climbers made out of pumpkins scaling the base.
“It even included a pumpkin with a knife cutting a rope and a pumpkin falling,” Santner said. “So there’s some great things like that.”
Aside from large-scale creations, the contest also receives a lot of political-themed submissions, like pumpkins based on Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
Submissions are due the day before Halloween, and judging takes place the next morning. This year, the panel of judges was comprised of three local artists that work as art teachers in the community who volunteered their time for the contest.
Once judging is completed, ribbons are placed on the winning pumpkins, which are displayed at The Bakery on Halloween night. Around 2,000 community members stop by The Bakery to view the pumpkins, as well as enjoy free pumpkin bread, hot cider and hot chocolate courtesy of The Bakery.
In addition to the public contest, The Bakery also holds a competition amongst employees. People who work at The Bakery submit their own pumpkins each year, which are displayed on Halloween night and voted on by the public. Whichever pumpkin receives the most votes gets a paid day off of work.
After 28 years and thousands of submissions received, Santner’s advice to future entrants is “let your ideas go. Don’t confine yourself to just a typical jack-o’-lantern, be creative.”