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World’s Largest Jack O’Lantern Displays


I know I’m starting to sound like a scaredy cat. I assure you it’s mostly just a fear of heights. And spiders. And 200 TV channels all airing reality shows at the same time.

Keene Pumpkin Festival

Keene Pumpkin Festival. Photo Credit: J.W. Ocker via OddThingsIveSeen.com

Given my delicate nature, Halloween tends to not be my favorite holiday. But Jack O’Lantern festivals are just my cup of tea. They’re more about fun and artistry, and less about fright and gore.

There are two events this year vying for the world record for the most Jack O’Lanterns lit at one event.

The Keene Pumpkin Festival in NH is the largest and oldest. The world record for the number of Jack O’Lanterns lit at one event was broken here eight times, until a 2006 event in Boston topped it. Still, last year’s 29,762 pumpkins was a record for this festival, and the world record may be broken again this year! The 20th anniversary of the Keene Pumpkin Festival takes place on Main Street in Keene this Saturday, October 16.

In this corner, the challenger! The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival in IL, is preparing to take its own shot at the world record this year. The whole community participates, creating and donating their own carved creations. They anticipate lighting 32,000 Jack O’Lanterns to take the title! This event takes place October 20-23 in Highwood, IL.

Highwood Pumpkin Festival

Highwood Pumpkin Festival. Photo Credit: Marcia Burke, City of Highwood

Full disclosure: we have not been to either of these events. But we have been to The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, NY for five years in a row. There are over 4,000 Jack O’ lanterns on display here; nothing to sneeze at! And since this event is my personal, “hometown” favorite, I’m going to give them a plug.  The level of artistry and creativity at the Blaze is notably above par. The Jack O’Lanterns cover the grounds of a 17th-century historic site; hanging from tree limbs, perched on rooftops, and incorporated in themed vignettes. You’ll see an undersea aquarium, a field of detailed Celtic knots, a den of dinos, a beehive, pirate ship, and a group of mummies with a pyramid. Amazing.

If you would like more information about these and other Jack O’Lantern festivals, I recently wrote this article for WomansDay.com about ten different events across the country.

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