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Chester County Press

A splendid fall ritual: The Great Pumpkin Carve

10/13/2015 09:52AM ● By J. Chambless

By Gene Pisasale

Halloween thrills kids of all ages as they think about a night filled with fun, spooky costumes and treats.

The celebration of this unofficial holiday dates back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the approach of winter. To them, it was a time when the physical and spiritual worlds were in closest contact, and magical things could happen.

The ritual of trick-or-treating has its roots in an old Irish legend. A farmer named Jack had a terrifying experience with the devil. He ran away holding a hollowed-out turnip with a glowing ember inside as a lantern to light the way to safety. Thus originated the term “Jack-O’-Lantern.” Kids in costumes and ornately carved pumpkins have become symbols of this season. The Chadds Ford Historical Society welcomes fall each year with The Great Pumpkin Carve.

Carving pumpkins has been popular in America for nearly two centuries. The practice received greater recognition locally when Andrew Wyeth began carving pumpkins in the 1970s on the porch of the historic Chadds Ford Inn (now Brandywine Prime). Along with his son, Jamie, Wyeth sculpted enough charming figures to bring in huge crowds that eventually needed a larger space.

Later, the annual celebration moved up the road to the grounds of the Historical Society, where hundreds of people enjoyed the cleverly designed pumpkins that were lit up at night. Today these strange-looking gourds are transformed by talented artists into a bewildering variety of fanciful shapes and take their places in a pumpkin patch for everyone to see. The largest pumpkins weigh in at several hundred pounds.

The Great Pumpkin Carve will be held Oct. 22 to 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. each evening at the Historical Society Visitor Center (1736 Creek Road in Chadds Ford). On Thursday night, visitors can watch the artists in action as they bring the pumpkins to life, illuminated with glowing candles. This year, more than 60 carvers will be taking part. The popular and newly expanded Haunted Trail will thrill visitors with eerie scenes of ghosts, goblins and ghouls, along with spooky Halloween sounds. There will be hayrides, live music, food and beverages, along with arts and crafts. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 7 to 17 (free for Historical Society members ages 6 and younger).

For more information, contact the Chadds Ford Historical Society at 610-388-7376 or visit The event is co-sponsored by the Concordville Chadds Ford Rotary.

Gene Pisasale is an author based in Kennett Square. His eight books and lecture series focus on the history of the Philadelphia and mid-Atlantic regions. His latest work,“American Revolution to Fine Art- Brandywine Valley Reflections,” is an historical “walking tour” of the Chester County region. He can be contacted at [email protected] Visit His books are available on