Halloween Pumpkin Treats in Berkeley CA

Some of the many pumpkins lining the MacDermott front porch in the Elmwood neighborhood

As a long-time North Berkeley resident it had been a while since I checked out Halloween on tonighthe other side of town.  So yesterday I was delighted to see the preparations in action for the event in Elmwood, where they can expect upwards of 2000 visitors to Russell Street, famed as one of the two Halloween Streets in Berkeley (Mariposa in North Berkeley being the second). I was fortunate to catch Dana MacDermott, the hostess extraordinaire to a decades-long tradition of a pumpkin carving party. She was putting the finishing touches onto a Loch Ness-like creature made of gourd halves winding on her front lawn.

Pumpkins from small to ginormous lined her porch, spilling out onto the sidewalk from her home on the corner of Ashby and Piedmon Avenue. I was particularly fond of a dragon in process. She explained that her family provides all of the pumpkins for the carvers, who range from six year olds to adult professional artists. Her brother grows the very large ones, some up to 500 pounds, watered through a system developed using A.I. (artificial intelligence).  Over the years they have arranged for various methods of disposal of the bio-matter created quickly after more than 100 pumpkins have their night in the dark, all lit by candles. “One year the Oakland Zoo asked for all of the pumpkins and fed them to the animals.” She was pleased to have a photo of an elephant eating one of her carved jack-o-lanterns. Now they take them to be composted by worms, making for a satisfying end of life for these creations. “It’s a lot of work,” Dana told me, “but it’s so much fun as well!” This yearly pumpkin extravaganza has clearly contributed  a deep sense of community to their neighborhood. My witch’s hat off to their family tradition!



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