Pumpkins, 4-H Fun, and So Much More

— Written By J. Scott Enroughty
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by: J. Scott Enroughty, Extension 4-H Agent
StarNews Article

A green lawn with groups of pumpkins available for sale.It is that time of year when patches of orange appear on corners throughout America. These colorful patches signal the first signs of fall and the beginning of fall décor. An array of colors and sizes to choose from help us create our perfect fall scene. A fall favorite is the carved pumpkin aka “jack-o’-lantern”. Usually, seen with spooky faces, but over the years, funny faces, logos to abstract art have been carved. But just where did this American tradition originate?

Although the legendary Headless Horseman and his hurled pumpkin have been scaring Americans for generations, the jack-o’-lantern can be traced back centuries to Old World traditions in countries including Ireland, England, and Scotland.

Jack-o-lantern with a candle inside.In England, Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of jack-o’-lanterns by carving scary faces into beets, turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and wandering evil spirits. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.

Immigrants from these countries brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.

Not only are pumpkins perfect for the fall but they are packed full of health benefits. Pumpkins are highly nutrient-dense food. Rich in vitamins and minerals but low in calories. Pumpkin seeds, leaves, and juices all pack a powerful nutritional punch. Full of antioxidants, such as beta carotene, as well as potassium which helps regulate blood pressure. Fresh or canned, you should eat more pumpkin.

A child reaches into a pumpkin.Over the past four years, New Hanover County 4-H hosts a family-friendly fun-filled evening with games, fellowship, and the glow of carved pumpkins with 4-H Pumpkin-Palooza. This year is no exception.

4-H Pumpkin-Palooza.

The 4th Annual 4-H Pumpkin-Palooza is set for Saturday, October 15 and will be held at the New Hanover County Extension and Arboretum located at 6206 Oleander Drive. Three sessions are available for attendees to enjoy the event: 5-6 p.m., 6:30-7:30 p.m. or 8-9 p.m., and tickets will be limited to ensure parking and safety for visitors.

Event attendees will have the opportunity to “Experience the Adventure of 4-H” with fun new activities and returning fan favorites like the UNCW mad scientists, 4-H interactive games, and NC Aquarium scales & tails.

4-H logo with jack-o-lanterns in front of it.In addition to attending and having the opportunity to explore acres of gardens illuminated with pumpkins, we are calling on all citizens to help illuminate the Arboretum with 150 carved pumpkins. There is no cost to enter a carved pumpkin and everyone is welcome to participate and showcase their skills. Two people trace a design on a pumpkin.Pumpkins can be dropped off at the Arboretum between noon and 2 p.m. on the day of the event, Saturday October 15. Your support by donating a carved pumpkin will help make the Garden Pumpkin Walk glow.

Tickets for the event must be pre-purchased online at Friends-NHCarboretum.org and will not be for sale at the gate. Tickets are $25 per vehicle (cars, standard trucks, SUV or mini-van. No large passenger vans or buses.)

The 4-H Pumpkin-Palooza is presented by New Hanover County Farm Bureau and all proceeds will go to the county’s 4-H youth programming and scholarships.

Halloween lights at night.The 4-H Pumpkin-Palooza will engage families, the community, and raise awareness of the 4-H Youth Programs and volunteer opportunities. Everyone enjoys a carved pumpkin. This year, tickets must be purchased online and are expected to go quickly, so make sure to get yours now.”

To learn more about 4-H in New Hanover County, visit newhanover.ces.ncsu.edu or contact 4-H Agent J. Scott Enroughty at 910-798-7669 or Scott_Enroughty@ncsu.edu.