by Nicole Silverio ’22
With Halloween around the corner, the Providence College Board of Programmers (BOP) collaborated with the Roger Williams Park Zoo to give students the chance to attend the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular on Sunday evening.
This is an annual light show hosted at the zoo that gives students the opportunity to witness a variety of professionally carved jack-o-lanterns that would undoubtedly amaze them.
Lasting 32 nights throughout October into early November, five-thousand jack-o‘-lanterns are on display throughout a quarter of a mile of the zoo. These are not ordinary jack-o‘-lanterns, as they display a variety of different images created by professional artists who add careful detail and imagination to their artwork.
Guests walk along a pathway surrounded by jack-o‘-lanterns creating a Halloween wonderland. Each display of pumpkins on the path has a different theme. This year’s main themes are Marvel comics, conservations, and the four seasons.
Olisa “Simba” Obioha ‘20, the event coordinator, collaborated with the Roger Williams Zoo to give Providence College students the opportunity to see the variety of uniquely created art in order to experience something they cannot experience anywhere else. He has been involved in BOP since the second semester of his freshman year and has enjoyed every moment of it.
He had proposed the idea to the administration in June, and the school was optimistic about it. He began working on this event in August and is excited that “it has finally been put together and we are making it happen.”
“BOP hosted this event last year (during Freshman Parent Weekend), and I was interested in providing this opportunity again this year because everyone I had heard from gave positive reviews about it. Plus, I love Halloween,” Obioha said.
Due to his love for Halloween, he thought this would be the perfect opportunity to play around with Halloween-themed activities. Since this was his first time at the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, Obioha expressed his excitement to have this opportunity while sharing it with his fellow peers. Obioha met his goal to sell at least fifty tickets.
John Reckner, the creator, has held the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular annually for 31 years. It was originally held in his hometown of Oxford, MA, before it moved to the Roger Williams Park Zoo in 2001. This past Saturday, 12,000 people attended.
“I never would have thought there would be thousands of people pouring through here after 18 years,” he said. “We come up with a new theme so it is a different show every year.” Reckner explained that the goal is to have 130,000 people come to the show.
20 artists are involved in carving the pumpkins. Some are full-time while others are part-time. They make two of the same images each, having the ideas for all the images and themes submitted to the zoo by January. Then, they start gathering all of the background props by springtime, and by August they are staging and setting up five miles of electrical wire. The background props include smoke, fake snow, music, bubbles, and strobe lights.
Many of the pumpkins come from Connecticut, while others are grown in Rhode Island, some weighing over 2,000 pounds. Depending on the heat, it can take about a week for the pumpkins to rot, so the artists are continuously carving pumpkins.
“We are non-stop drawing for six weeks,” Reckner explained. “It is a mad drawing session.” He explained that they go through about 20,000 pumpkins throughout the show, although only 5,000 are displayed, as they must replace the ones that rot. They also light each pumpkin with LED lightbulbs.
Reckner’s inspiration to have Marvel as a main theme is in honor of Stan Lee, who passed away earlier this year. The one thing that does not change each year is the repeat laughing tree playing the song called “Don’t Laugh” by Josh Wink.
The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular will be open until Nov. 3, and tickets are on sale at rwpzoo.org. It is truly a remarkable experience that amazes everyone.