Highwood sets pumpkin-carving record
William Nenandal looks for a spot to place a jack-o-lantern Saturday afternoon in downtown Highwood. | Eric Davis ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 28, 2011 8:09AM
After four days of counting, Highwood officials announced Wednesday that 30,919 pumpkins were carved, lit and displayed Saturday night, smashing the previous world-record by 791 jack-o’-lanterns.
Boston carved 30,128 pumpkins in 2006 and Keene, N. H., also took aim at the record Saturday, but both proved no match for Highwood.
Highwood’s revision to the Guinness World Record book was made possible by a massive, week-long carving effort that spanned the North Shore.
The city enlisted help from residents of the Fort Sheridan and Great Lakes military bases, and dozens of North Shore schools, to overcome its own 5,000-pumpkin shortfall last year. Highwood even offered a five-figure prize to the school that contributed the most pumpkins.
And that top honor stayed in Highwood, too, as Oak Terrace Elementary School celebrated a $15,000 windfall Monday for contributing 1,400 pumpkins.
The ultimate payoff, however, was Saturday night’s lighting ceremony, which showcased a jaw-dropping wall of jack-o’-lanterns that lined downtown Highwood streets. An estimated 30,000 attendees packed the area to revel in the pumpkin glory.
“When every pumpkin was lit and the street lights were shut off, the reaction of the crowd was worth every pumpkin’s weight in gold,” said Highwood Mayor Charlie Pecaro. “The reaction of the awestruck crowd was at first a loud collective gasp, followed by a hush as they took it in, to wild applause celebrating the magnificent feat.”
The four-day Great Pumpkin Fest also featured a pumpkin pie eating contest, kids activity tent, carnival rides, carving stations, a petting zoo, a 5-kilomter run and kids dash and a farmers market.
“I’ve never seen a greater display of community spirit than I did during this Festival,” added Highwood Alderman Eric Falberg, 4th Ward. “It’s certainly a feat to pull off, but every smiling face makes it 100 percent worth it. This isn’t just about Highwood, it’s about every person involved.”
Local businesses also won. Offering special deals during the Fest, Buffo’s restaurant boasted seven days worth of business in one night while Washington Gardens reported it doubled his business each night.
The city relied on volunteers, donations and sponsorships, including Mom.com, Powerteam International, Safari Childcare, Waukegan Tire, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, Foss Swim School, Equinox, AthletiCo, Highwood Chamber of Commerce, Northbrook Toyota, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Burris Equipment, Pioneer Local, Events by M Ltd., La Casa de Isaac, Sunset Foods, Bridie McKenna’s, Bent Fork Bakery, Pastificio, Viti Insurance, Klein Thorpe, Buffo’s, Little Tommy’s Plumbing, and McDonald’s.
All remaining pumpkins are being composted.