The rich smell of caramel fills the air, wafting on the breeze as a nearby machine feverishly pops kernels, ready to be coated in the gooey goodness. It’s balanced by the crisp scent of autumn air, as a gust of wind rustles the brilliantly-coloured leaves on a nearby tree. As you look up, you’re met face-to-face with a towering t-rex, made entirely out of pumpkins. Welcome to Pumpkins After Dark.
This is Pumpkins After Dark’s debut year, and this event marks the first of its kind in our area. This fall, immerse yourself in the magic of the season as thousands of magnificently-carved pumpkins light up the night sky.
The event runs from September 26 until November 3, located at Country Heritage Park in Milton. Tickets are priced at $20 for adults, $16 for children under the age of 13 and free for children under the age of three.
“We want to leave people in awe, thinking, ‘I can’t believe they’ve just carved this out of pumpkins,’” said James Fraser, chief pumpkineer of Pumpkins After Dark.e
With the event sprawled across the 80-acre park, featuring over 100 unique pumpkin sculptures ranging in length from five feet to over forty, this dazzling display is sure to leave guests awestruck. The displays are spaced out over a 1/4 mile track, which will take about an hour to walk through.
As chief pumpkineer of the event, Fraser is in charge of “deciding the vision for where the event is going to go, how we want to set up different scenes and making sure they’re going to be appropriate for all ages, and that there are (displays) for everyone,” he described.
But as visionary of the event, Fraser made sure to balance the general appeal of the displays, while staying true to its title of a “Halloween event,” by incorporating a few frightening features.
You can expect to see a few familiar faces carved into pumpkins, like Dracula, Frankenstein and maybe even some of your favourite movie and video game characters.
All of this is made possible by the incredible artists behind these pieces of pumpkin artistry. Wielding their saw like a magic wand, these pumpkin carvers work like magicians to transform ordinary pumpkins into sculptures that are anything but.
One of the artists, Roy Chisholm, known on his Instagram page as Serial Peeler, embodies the passion for this art form. Chisholm continuously pushes the limits of what’s possible with his pumpkin creations and his work was recently featured on the Food Network. When he heard about this opportunity, he was itching to get involved.
“On our (Pumpkins After Dark) Instagram, someone commented on a picture, saying, ‘This is my dream,’” said Fraser.
The time taken to perfect each of these structures varies depending on the size of the project, but for a larger display it can take up to 120 hours of hard work to complete.
On top of the outdoor art exhibit portion of this event, there will also be an interactive component for event-goers to enjoy. There will be 3D interactive pumpkin structures as well as artists carving away, transforming 7,000 pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns throughout the duration of the event.
With all of these incredible pumpkins on display, Habitat HM wanted to provide guests with an outlet for their creativity, inspired by these carved masterpieces.
We’ll be selling pumpkins near the exit of the event, for only $5. There will also be professional carving tools available for purchase and pumpkin carving templates you can take home for free. Step up your jack-o’-lantern game this Halloween and carve one of these gorgeous gourds for your front porch.
Additionally, we’ll have a donation booth set up in case you’re interested in making a more sizeable contribution.
All proceeds from the sale of pumpkins and our donation booth will be used to build affordable housing, right here within our community.
“Our hope in involving Habitat in this event is, number one, awareness. (We want people to know) that Habitat’s out there and that it isn’t just this international organization, it’s right here, and it’s doing something incredible in our area,” said Fraser.
Fraser became involved with Habitat over a year ago, when he joined as a Habitat HM board member.
“As soon as I saw what Habitat was doing, I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to see how we could do things bigger and better,” he said.
Pumpkins After Dark definitely meets the “big and better” criteria. The idea for the event hit Fraser like a ton of bricks.
While living in Connecticut, Fraser and his family went to see an event called Rise of the Jack O’ Lanterns.
“When we walked into it, I was just blown away. The size, the scope, the effects, I was just in awe. We weren’t there for more than five minutes and I said to my wife, ‘When we get back to Canada, I’m doing this,’” said Fraser.
True to his word, Fraser began planning what would become Pumpkins After Dark as soon as he returned to the country.
“To me, fall is the most spectacular time of the year in Canada. With the changing leaves, we’re so fortunate… we’ve got so much beautiful terrain, but when it comes to this time of year, there really isn’t that much going on at night (in our area of Ontario),” explained Fraser.
While the GTA has several fantastic fall events, most of them take place during the day. Pumpkins After Dark offers an entirely new experience, with their doors opening only after nightfall.
“As soon as it gets dark, everything just comes to life,” said Fraser.
Tickets are available for purchase now on their website, sorted by date and entry time. Tickets for the event’s opening night are already sold out.
“For me, being able to grow this event year after year with Habitat is the exciting part,” said Fraser.
Fraser says one of the most important parts about our work is in how we shed light on these hidden struggles happening in our community.
“I’ve lived in this area my whole life and we’re kind of sheltered… we don’t really understand that there are people out there who need a helping hand,” he said.
Habitat works to remove the blindfold, opening the eyes of residents in our area to issues happening right within their neighbourhood.
“Next year, we want to make displays that are even bigger and better, going up 20 and even 30 feet in height,” said Fraser.
From your seat atop a throne of pumpkins, you look around the event, soaking in the magic that’s all around you. A child jumps up and down, captivated by the scene of Muppet characters, an oversized lollipop clutched in their fist. A couple strolls down the path, hand-in-hand, observing artists as they expertly saw and scrape at their next work of art. As the night comes to a close, you can’t possibly imagine how they’ll beat this display next year.
Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga is a proud member of our national organization Habitat Canada and is one of 54 local Habitat affiliates across our country. Habitat for Humanity brings communities together to help families build strength, stability, and independence through affordable homeownership. We provide a solid foundation for better, healthier lives in Canada and around the world. You can find out more about Habitat Canada at habitat.ca.