Halloween without pumpkins, in fact several thousand of them, wouldn’t be the same for former Kenova Ric Griffith or his aptly named Pumpkin House.
And it wouldn’t be the same for approximately 30,000 folks who come each year to see the 3,000 carved jack o’lanterns that illuminate his Victorian-era home overlooking the Ohio River.
That’s because Griffith—along with family members, friends, neighbors and hundreds of other volunteers—spend weeks lovingly carving pumpkins for the glowing seasonal tribute.
This year’s offering will include something new in the spirit of national politics: pumpkins that have been carved to look like each of the nation’s 43 different presidents.
There will even be two special mannequins, each topped with a pumpkin head and motorized hands, for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
“Donald will have his TicTac (mints) and be waving his hand to make a point, and Hillary will also be using her hands – to delete emails on her cellphone. So he will be doing his thing, and she will be doing hers,” Griffith said.
They will engage in a presidential debate, thanks to some special programming aimed at making the duo’s debut as real as possible since there will also be patriotic music.
Not to be outdone, Russian President Vladimir Putin is also part of the show and his pumpkin-carved face will show distinct displeasure when Clinton speaks.
It’s a labor of love that started with just a few pumpkins in 1978.
Even Griffith has been surprised by its growing state, national and even international popularity.
Visitors from more than half of the states have come to see it, as well as folks from other countries who were in the area on business and decided to drop by, he said.
One couple from Seattle extended their schedule to stay a couple of days longer to help, and then also returned another year to volunteer. Foreign students attending classes at Marshall University are also frequent visitors.
“Honestly we have lots of people who come here even before we’re finished getting ready. We had a Japanese family Sunday night but we always find a way to break through any language barrier,” he said.
It’s been mentioned in overseas newspapers, including one in Rome, Italy and another in Vietnam while he’s also been interviewed for an Australian radio station.
“I remember telling the guy that if you do something crazy enough you’ll get attention, and this honestly qualifies,” he said.
“He didn’t understand Halloween or why we celebrate it. When he asked why we carve pumpkins, I told him that grapes were too difficult.”
Local volunteers – from students to military members – spend hundreds of hours helping prepare for the event by doing everything from helping clean and gut pumpkins to actually place them on Griffith’s 115-year-old home.
“Global warming is not your friend when you are dealing with this many pumpkins,” he said, adding that a bath of water and vinegar helps retard mold growth but not for long. Soon, it’s time to replace pumpkins and that’s not easy considering they are placed on the house’s highest points.
Approximately half of them have already been set out, and the massive display should be finished by Saturday so there will be plenty of viewing time before trick-or-treaters hit local homes Monday night.
Since it’s crunch time, additional help is still needed and folks will be used to help craft the already stenciled pumpkins into handmade works of art.
Volunteers are welcome to drop by Griffith’s home at 748 Beech Street day or night to help with the final crunch.
“We’ve got a real backlog of pumpkins, and can really use the help. Last night we were there until after midnight, and there’s still a long ways to go,” he said.
The free event is sponsored by his business, Griffith & Feil Pharmacy and Soda Fountain, which has been in the Wayne County community for more than a century. It spends several thousand dollars annually but that’s not the most important consideration, he said.
Giving back is important, especially since many families now have a tradition of bringing children and grandchildren to the annual event.
It’s also a way for folks to enjoy quality family time even if they can’t afford to spend much money.
One man’s comments brought tears to Griffith’s eyes.
“He didn’t have money to even take them to a movie, but he could bring them here. And he knows they will always remember two things – the pumpkins, as well as being here with him,” he said.