By Kate Morton & Amelia Compton Wolff
Autumn is something to be celebrated in the Fox Cities. We’ve rounded up all our fall favorites, from festivals to food, in one handy guide to help you have the best cider-sipping, sweater-wearing, pumpkin-carving season yet.
For at least the last 15 years, local pumpkin carving enthusiasts Kevin Rades and his wife, Sarah, have been delighting young and old with their family pumpkin carving display at 1225 E. Harding Dr. in Appleton. The family-friendly display, which features dozens of intricately carved and sculpted pumpkins, will be on view October 27-29 from 5–9 p.m. each night. Below, Kevin shares some of his expert pumpkin carving tips:
- Select quality pumpkins. Rades is loyal to the pumpkins grown at Sunny Hill Farm in Green Bay, but wherever you get yours, he suggests picking pumpkins with at least one smooth side. “If they have lots of bumps and character, they are harder to carve,” he says.
- Prep pumpkins well. When it comes to a successful carving, preparation is key. “All of the prep work that isn’t fun is what you need to do to have cool patterns work,” Rades says. Take special care to gut and clean the pumpkin thoroughly. Rades says carvers should thin the walls of their pumpkin to about an inch thick, otherwise saws will have a hard time cutting through. Rades uses an electric drill attachment to thin the walls, but you can also scrape the interior by hand.
- Use a carving pattern. Leave freehand carving to the experts. Rades recommends selecting a pattern and using a photocopier to size it to your pumpkin. “Everything I carve is from a pattern, so really anybody can do this,” he says. “I get a lot of patterns from zombiepumpkins.com for a membership fee.” Rades says Pumpkin Master brand patterns are easy for beginners and readily available at local stores.
- Pin and poke. While there are several different ways to transfer patterns to your pumpkin, Rades swears by the old school pin and poke method. “We pin the patterns onto our pumpkin and then poke tiny holes through the paper, so when carving you just connect the dots,” he says. “It’s tedious, but it’s still the best.”
- Practice makes perfect. Rades puts on his display because he loves the reactions it gets from viewers. He never wants to take carving too seriously and neither should you. “Have fun with it and don’t get discouraged if one pattern doesn’t work,” he says. “Just try another.” —ACW