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Susan Kang Sunderland

Tales From The Great Pumpkin Patch

Momi Akana (executive director of Keiki O Ka Aina; Billie Gabriel, Leighton Tseu (Pumpkin Carving Festival president), Merv Lam (Kaneohe Safeway general manager), Tamara Namduang, and Leigh Leilani Graham, USO area director

Momi Akana (executive director of Keiki O Ka Aina; Billie Gabriel, Leighton Tseu (Pumpkin Carving Festival president), Merv Lam (Kaneohe Safeway general manager), Tamara Namduang, and Leigh Leilani Graham, USO area director

Here’s the straight scoop from a real expert on the third annual Pumpkin Carving Festival Oct. 24 at Tamarind Park, and Oct. 27 at Windward Mall

By THE GREAT PUMPKIN As told to Susan Kang

I’ve been clinging to a vine for months, but now the wait is over.

Halloween is nearly here, and it’s show time. I’m a giant pumpkin of a svelte 1,399 pounds enroute to Honolulu from a pumpkin patch in northern Michigan.

You know about pumpkins, don’t you? Although we are not indigenous to the Islands, you are familiar with our cousins, the gourds (ipu). A pumpkin is a gourd-like fruit from the Cucurbita family of plants that includes squash, watermelon and cucumbers. The species originated in Central America.

The largest of us ever grown is 2,009 pounds (more than a ton), earning a world’s record just weeks ago in Rhode Island. That’s a lot of pumpkin pie.

Although you can’t dance hula with us, you can cook and carve us. The Irish brought the tradition of carving turnips and potatoes to America. They quickly discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve.

European custom included carving scary faces into gourds and placing embers inside to light them. This was believed to ward off evil spirits, especially spirits who roamed the streets and countryside during All Hallows’ Eve.

But enough of legends. That was then. This is now.

My trip from a pumpkin patch in Michigan to Oahu – some 4,500 miles – is to bring joy to children and families in paradise. My coming out party is at the third annual Pumpkin Carving Festival Saturday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at Windward Mall. Folks are invited to enjoy pumpkin carving and a howling good time.

“It is reminiscent of Hawaii’s makahiki observance,” says event organizer Billie Gabriel, who started the Pumpkin Carving Festival in 2010 as a seasonal tradition. “One of the purposes for this community event is to create a tradition for families leading into Halloween and Thanksgiving.”

Each year, two charities are selected as the beneficiaries. The 2012 festival benefits Keiki O Ka Aina Family Learning Centers and USO Hawaii.

Preceding the family event is a corporate competition on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 4:30 p.m., at Tamarind Park. We all know that downtown’s financial center thrives on competition and bragging rights. So expect Bishop Square to be a sea of orange as corporate teams and executives compete for coveted pumpkin perpetual trophies.

Pumpkins in transit for last year’s festival

Pumpkins in transit for last year’s festival

Business leaders going head-to-head in a two-hour timed event in the Executive CarveDown are Rich Blangiardi (Hawaii News Now), Meredith Ching (Alexander & Baldwin), Glenn Hong (Young Brothers/Hawaiian Tug & Barge), Ron Mizutani (Communications-Pacific and MidWeek columnist) and Mia Inoshita (Meadow Gold Dairies).

Also, Conchita Malaqui (Outrigger/Waikiki Beach Walk), Steven Teruya (Finance Factors), Richard Wacker (American Savings Bank), John Schmitz (Hilton Head Health), Sean Satterfeld (UBS Hawaii) and Corbett Kalama (First Hawaiian Bank).

Corporate teams will compete in timed contests to carve four pumpkins in categories entitled Endangered Species, Monuments/Historical Landmarks, and Political Pumpkin Heads. (OK, no jokes about hollowed-out pumpkin heads for the political category.)

Corporate presenters exhibiting their sense of humor are Matson Navigation Company, Safeway, Hawaii Business Magazine, and Douglas Emmett Management. Safeway is donating 1,100 pumpkins for family packages.

Equally ready for a good time are judges for the corporate carvedown, including Marjorie Bronster, Tom Moffatt, Steve Petranik, George Glukfeld, Linda Ching and MidWeek publisher Ron Nagasawa.

Judges have their work cut out for them. Those business types are downright spooky when it comes to competition.

A special attraction at the corporate and family day events will be master carver Ed Moody, popularly known Pumpkin Ed. Hailing from Frankfort, Mich., Ed has carved giant pumpkins – the kind weighing 500 pounds or more – for 14 years. His artistic skills are amazing as he cuts and scrapes giant gourds into awesome creations.

He is a wizard wielding a Chicago Cutlery paring knife, boning knife and a 12-inch blade filet knife. I can’t wait to see my makeover as Pumpkin Ed transforms me into a whimsical character.

According to festival president Leighton Tseu, the logistics of bringing four giant pumpkins to Hawaii are equally impressive.

He should know. Tseu is a retired Matson regional port engineer who is adept at the ins and outs of transport.

“Half the fun is getting here,” Tseu tells me, and he is right. The diligent logistics plan by Pumpkin Ed and Tseu, with the cooperation of Matson, makes the 4,500-mile trek to paradise a breeze.

Pumpkin Ed custom designed packing crates that are lined with protective material and constructed of heavy duty wood to withstand front-end loaders. I am securely fastened in place with sturdy straps.

I am taking a 2,400-mile truck ride from Michigan to Oakland, Calif., where cargo handlers place the pumpkin crates into refrigerated containers for the ocean voyage to Hawaii. The 2,100-mile sail on the Matson barge M/VManoa takes four-and-a-half days, but seems longer in my anxiousness to reach the shores of paradise.

Pumpkin Ed Moody carves a pumpkin for last year’s festival, with the result at right

Pumpkin Ed Moody carves a pumpkin for last year’s festival, with the result at right

I will be off-loaded at the Matson pier by a giant crane and reside at the Matson container yard until the Department of Agriculture gives me a good bill of health certificate. Then, Kevin Akana Trucking will transfer me to Windward Mall’s Family Day.

Like most glamorous celebrities, I won’t come out until I’m ready to meet my public. My Matson refrigerator container keeps me cool at 40 degrees to assure freshness.

Hope you’ll join me at the Pumpkin Carving Festival for my Honolulu debut and the transformation that will take place at the hands of my creative guardian, Pumpkin Ed.

It will be a hoot to meet you and experience the island’s spirit of aloha. What I’ve heard is that everyone smiles, greets newcomers warmly, and loves posing for photos – even with pleasingly plump pumpkins. Shaka.

Pumpkin Carving family packages Oct. 27 at Windward Mall cost $35 and $65, and include pumpkin, tools, apron, stencil and reserved work table. Only a few packages remain. For more information, call 497-7264 or visit pump-kincarvingfestival.org.

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