The first time you see a house, seas and sidewalks made of pumpkins, you stare for a second and then maybe ask: Where do you buy 90,000 pumpkins? And do you get free shipping?
The Dallas Arboretum’s Fall Pumpkin Festival is one of the few places that charms 5-year-old kids and 50-year-old executives alike. The annual fest, slated from Sept. 22- Nov. 21, is themed “Adventures in Neverland.” Ships, a treasure chest and a requisite plank all are featured in the whimsical display, along with thousands of pumpkins and gourds.
So where can you buy 90,000 pumpkins? Dave Forehand, vice president of gardens, calls the Pumpkin Pyle. The mom-and-pop empire in Floydada, north of Lubbock, is where most pumpkin shopping binges happen.
About 40 arboretum horticulturists and volunteers have two weeks unload the pumpkins, squashes and gourds from a convoy of 18-wheelers.
Four big rigs pull into the arboretum from Floydada around sunrise. A fleet of fork lifts and the horticulturists feverishly offload their cargo in Pecan Grove. Dozens of huge cardboard crates are everywhere, bursting with gigantic pumpkins.
“You think, what do pumpkins have to do with Peter Pan?” Forehand says. Arboretum horticulture manager Jennifer Wang has closely watched the changing themes each fall. “Everything used to be themed around pumpkins, and now it’s what you can build with pumpkins,” Jennifer says. “You start to run out of stories that have pumpkins in them.”
The team set the bar high in 2017, when the theme was “The Wizard of Oz,” complete with a Tin Man, dead witch’s feet and a yellow brick road spiraling through the grove.
Forehand and Wang don’t expect Peter Pan to make an appearance at the festival, but they predict Captain Hook and Tinkerbelle sightings.
Nearly all the pumpkins will become compost in late November. But first, every bit of the soon-to-be soggy fruit must be picked up. “The Big Macs, those really big pumpkins? They go bad the quickest,” Wang says. “The worst is when you pick one up, and the whole bottom falls out on your shoes.”
And each person will handle 2,250 pumpkins.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Jennifer says. “But as soon as we’re done we all stand back, and we’re amazed at how wonderful it turns out.”
Story by Andy Shaw
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