Halloween without pumpkins, in fact several thousand of them, wouldn’t be the same in Kenova.
Especially for local businessman Rick Griffith and his beloved 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.
It’s a labor of love that started with just a few pumpkins in 1978, and grew like a pumpkin vine.
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.
Sometimes it is difficulty breaking through language barriers, but pumpkin love conquers all.
There’s been plenty of national exposure, including The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was also featured on Home and Garden TV’s Halloween Tricked Out, which focused on extreme celebrations across the country.
It’s been mentioned in overseas newspapers, including one in Rome, Italy and another in Vietnam.
Once upon a time, Griffith had a memorable interview with 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.”
Coupled with his family members, local volunteers are truly the heart of this operation.
Students and even military members spend hundreds of hours helping prepare for the event by doing everything from helping clean and gut pumpkins.
They also help place, and then replace them, on his 115-year-old home.
Time is of the essence, especially in the end, as the holiday approaches.
“Global warming is not your friend when you are dealing with this many pumpkins,” he said.
A water and vinegar bath helps retard mold growth on pumpkin flesh, but not for long.
Soon, it’s time to replace pumpkins and that’s not easy considering they are even placed on the house’s highest points.
The full display will be open beginning Saturday. But folks are welcome to drop by anytime, and see what’s happening.
And since it’s crunch time, additional help is still needed.
Interested individuals can help carve 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.
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.
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.