Highwood hoping to smash pumpkin-carving record
Brandi Rae Bombicino, 7, of Highland Park couldn't be happier to be cleaning pumpkins. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 21, 2011 8:38AM
The city of Highwood is knee deep in pumpkin guts as the community is now several days into its preparation for a record-breaking attempt at carving and displaying 32,000 pumpkins.
Highwood’s Public Works building was already packed with 20,000 pumpkins last weekend when two truckloads of 12,000 more were delivered. The pumpkin display scaffolding is ready along Highwood Avenue, awaiting the massive North Shore carving effort.
To overcome last year’s 5,000-pumpkin shortfall — 26,287 jack-o’-lanterns were carved last fall — the city has called in dozens of local schools to compete in a carving challenge.
The effort will culminate with Highwood’s Great Pumpkin Fest lighting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 22).
This will mark Highwood’s second attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most jack-o’-lanterns lit in one location. The record holder hails from Massachusetts, but Highwood’s competition next week will come from Keene, N. H., which also has the record within its sights.
Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro and Alderman Eric Falberg, 4th Ward, traveled to New Hampshire Sept. 14 to officially announce the challenge.
Both pumpkin festivals and lighting ceremonies will be held simultaneously, with the pumpkins illuminated at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
Although the payoff and winner won’t be known until this weekend, the five-day Great Highwood Pumpkin Fest is already under way.
With a five-figure first-place prize on the line, 32 North Shore schools began carving Monday. The school that contributes the most pumpkins to Highwood’s effort will win $10,000; $1,000 is the reward for second place and $500 for third place. For every pumpkin carved by Saturday, $1 will be donated back to the participating school.
Community carving continues until 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Highwood Evening Gourmet Farmers Market, which runs from 3-9 p.m. all week at City Hall Park, 17 Highwood Ave. There will be more than 40 vendors, live music, haunted and fantasy hay rides, massive pumpkin displays and ceremonial lighting of the towers each evening at 6:30 p.m.
The city’s Battle of the Bands also kicked off Monday and Tuesday nights.
A pumpkin pie eating contest was scheduled for Wednesday with individual competitions planned for four contest groups: Elementary-middle school, high school, over 18 and a special Highwood City official category.
A 5-kilometer Pumpkin Run and Kids’ Dash will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday. Participants can register at www.highwoodpumpkinfest.com/5k.html.
A full day of Pumpkin Fest activities will run through the day leading up to the lighting ceremony.
“We are going to break the world record this year by working with pumpkin farmers from all over the Midwest from Wisconsin to downstate Illinois, and have pumpkin carving by our schools, religious organizations, community organizations and the local military bases,” said Falberg, the pumpkin mastermind behind the effort.