Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular Is a Treat for the Senses

Admire Pumpkin Artistry in Providence, Rhode Island

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    Not Your Neighborhood Halloween Display

    Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Providence RI
    © Kim Knox Beckius

    Celebrate Halloween to the extreme at the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. See the amazing pumpkin carvings on display beginning October 4 through November 4, 2018. This year's carved works of art focus on fairytale characters, wizards, superheroes and real-life heroes from history. There are more than 5,000 to see as you stroll through a Halloween dreamland filled with musical effects, shadowy trees, watery reflections, billowy fog and thousands of unblinking pairs of glowing eyeballs.

    This look back at the 2010 Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular will give you a sense of the experience. You'll also hear about this Halloween attraction's history and learn how to make the most of your visit. Bundle up, as the wait to enter the display can be long, particularly on weekend evenings.

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    Humble Beginnings

    Great Pumpkin Carving - JackoLantern Spectacular in Providence
    © Kim Knox Beckius

    For Linus and Sally, waiting in a sincere pumpkin patch may never result in a visit from the Great Pumpkin. For the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular's founders, however, 1988's display of 185 jack-o-lanterns on a hillside behind a school led to something huge.

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    Otherworldly Orbs

    Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo - Alien Pumpkin Carving Design
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Visitors to the zoo sometimes wait up to two hours on busy nights to reach the Wetlands Trail, which is the scene of the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular. When you see the first impressive carvings, you'll understand why the line moves slowly. Dress warmly and bring a camera.

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    Creatures of the Night

    JackoLantern Spectacular Photo - 5,000 Illuminated Jack-O-Lanterns On Display
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Most of the 5,000 jack-o'-lanterns on display at the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular are illuminated from within by battery-powered lights. Only a few are actually lit with candles.

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    How Long Do They Last?

    Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular - How Long Do Jack-O-Lanterns Last?
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    How long do the carved pumpkins last? Not long enough. During the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular's 25-day 2010 run, 10,000 pumpkins were carved, so each design needed to be created two times on average.

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    Lost World

    Jackolantern Spectacular Picture - Prolong Life of JackoLanterns with Bleach Solution
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Jack-o'-lanterns are sprayed with a bleach solution to prolong their life, but these organic canvases are destined to perish. This "Lost World" pumpkin—surrounded by jack-o'-lanterns on the water and on land—refers to something entirely different, however.

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    Jurassic Jack-O'-Lanterns

    Dinosaur Pumpkin Carving Design - Jurassic Jack-O-Lanterns at JackOLantern Spectacular
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    "A Walk in Time" was the theme of the 2010 Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular, and after the Charlie Brown and creature carvings, visitors heard loud rustling noises in the trees and saw jack-o'-lanterns carved into dinosaurs. The 2018 Spectacular will feature a myths, legends, fairytales and heroes (both real and imaginary) theme.

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    Next Stop: Africa

    Lion Pumpkin Carving - Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Roger Williams Park Zoo
    © Kim Knox Beckius

    Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular often includes pumpkin displays of animal carvings. But note that the zoo is closed at night: These orange animals are the only ones the kids are likely to see. You may want to plan a daytime zoo visit, too, so they won't be disappointed.

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    Primates Can't Carve

    Gorilla Jackolantern - Animal Pumpkin Carving Designs at Zoo Jackolantern Spectacular
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Gorillas may have opposable thumbs, but only humans can carve amazing jack-o'-lanterns. Nearly 200 of the 5,000 carved pumpkins on display are this ornate, and even the simpler pumpkin faces are creative and fun.

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    The Dawn of Man

    Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Picture - Dawn of Man
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Man's evolution is depicted on this pumpkin. The man responsible for the Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular's evolution is Oxford, Massachusetts, postal carrier John Reckner, who organized the first Spectacular in 1988 and still supervises carving efforts.

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    Incredible Detail

    Mona Lisa Pumpkin Carving - Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular Features Incredibly Detailed Pumpkin Carvings
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Note the incredible detail in this Mona Lisa pumpkin carving. It's painstaking work for the team of professional pumpkin carvers to etch the complex, layered designs into each pumpkin's skin and flesh.

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    Works of Art

    Renaissance Pumpkin Carving Mona Lisa - JackoLantern Spectacular Roger Williams Park Zoo
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    The pumpkins are works of art themselves, created by pumpkin carvers whose medium in the fall happens to be pumpkins.

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    Passion for Pumpkins

    Passion for Pumpkins - Jackolantern Spectacular Providence Rhode Island
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Founder John Reckner, members of his family and a posse of jack-o'-lantern artists who have joined the pumpkin-carving crew over the years call themselves Passion for Pumpkins. It's an apt name for a group whose obvious love for this event shines through.

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    The Wild West

    Wild West Cowboy Pumpkin Carving at Jackolantern Spectacular
    © Kim Knox Beckius

    Once you reach the entrance to the quarter-mile Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular trail, you can proceed at your own pace, stopping for photo ops along the way.

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    A Rewarding Experience

    Jesse James Pumpkin Carving - Jackolantern Spectacular Fundraiser for Roger Williams Park Zoo
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    You'll feel rewarded to know your Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular admission fee supports the zoo's environmental education and conservation efforts.

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    Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

    Picture of Jackolantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo Providence Rhode Island
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    It's easy to fixate on the most intricately carved pumpkins, such as this 1940s Post cover featuring Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter. But there are literally carved pumpkins everywhere along the ground, on towers, in the trees and suspended over a pond. The pumpkin aroma is overpowering at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular! There's no doubt these pumpkins are all the real deal.

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    '80s Faces

    Ronald Reagan Pumpkin - Jackolantern Spectacular Picture
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    Among the famous '80s faces on display at the 2010 Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular was 40th President Ronald Reagan.

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    That's One Big Pumpkin

    Giant Jackolantern Photo - Jackolantern Spectacular Roger Williams Park Zoo
    © 2010 Kim Knox Beckius

    The Jack-O'-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo features pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, some weighing as much as 800 lbs.

    As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.