Village fired up over Pumpkin Inferno

The Pumpkin Inferno, coming to Upper Canada Village this October, will be totally original, and totally spell-binding. There is already a feeling that it will rival Alight at Night in its appeal to the public. 

“It’s magnificent,” said Susan Le Clair,  manager of customer service & corporate communications for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. “We are investing a lot of resources into our Pumpkin Inferno.”

On Friday, October 5, the Commission will unveil its newest attraction, the Pumpkin Inferno.  The Inferno will be an event unlike anything Upper Canada Village has ever staged before. 

For the entire month of October, (leading up to an as yet top secret finale on October 31), the Village will be the site of an extraordinary display of over 25 fascinating exhibits, all created using 4,000 pumpkins. (Five transports were needed to deliver the pumpkins to the work site.)

Visitors to the Village will be dazzled by pumpkin creations, two and three dimensional, tied to themes as diverse as Under the Sea and the Old West. 

“We hope to enhance and augment this experience for our visitors, with the wonderful Village as the backdrop,” Le Clair explained. “There will be lights and music, and the exhibits will be in the trees, in the water, and on the ground, making full use of the Village site.” 

Events officer Jancis Sommerville brought the idea of the Pumpkin Inferno to the commission, and developed the business plan. “Management was immediately excited by her idea,” said Le Clair. “They are backing her vision 100 per cent. We hope to see as many as 25,000 visitors to the Village in this our first year. We want to keep Upper Canada Village alive and vital even after the regular season ends. We want to drive tourism through this region.”

The artistic force behind this incredible new event at Upper Canada Village?

It’s a group of extraordinarily talented young people, many drawn from right here in South Dundas.

The Leader had the opportunity to meet Liam Mills and Dave Hurtubise (later joined by Nikki Ault), who head the project. They are young graphic designers whose vision for the Pumpkin Inferno has “fired-up” the Village. 

Mills and Hurtubise lead a team of 13 students, some in high school, some in college, some in university. From a variety of backgrounds (art history, animation, industrial design and art classes), what they all share in common are strong creative and artistic skills. 

Liam, Dave and Susan Le Clair led a tour of the Pumpkin site (built in a large work shop behind the Upper Canada air strip) on Thursday, August 16. It was a beehive of activity, as the students bring the exhibits to life.

Hurtubise and Mills’ original graphic concepts are designed, first on paper, and then in computer simulations, at the start of what the team jokingly calls “the assembly line.”

“We have 25 major themes for this exhibit,” Liam Mills said. “They are very diverse: traditional Hallowe’en to underwater creations, Chinese themes, gardens, even the Old West. Just one of our themes required 27 pumpkins to make a figure life sized. I think people will be very surprised by what they see.”

“The pumpkins are all styrofoam, and come in several sizes,” Dave Hurtubise explained, “from really small hand sized ones to others almost three feet tall.  The pumpkins are attached to plywood and the students trace outlines in the dark room cannister. We disassemble the pieces, later reassembling them to make the exhibits. I think that when our finished works are lit up at night, the exhibits will be really striking.”

There were no blue prints for this project. The whole concept was completely unique. “The team often had to invent the process as they went along,” Le Clair said. 

“We collectively work on one theme at a time,” Liam explained, “although two or three exhibits may be on the go. Work is constantly in progress on the line.”

“We are very team driven,” Dave said. “Everyone is involved in every step of the process. There’s a lot of satisfaction for people to see where everything is going. I think the most creative work takes place in mid process.”

Each worker has his/her station and tools. Carpenters take into consideration the lighting and settings as the exhibits near completion and are stored in labelled trailers. The exhibits have been created to use the buildings, the lights, the trees and the full size and scale of the Village to create an impact.

It is obvious, from the level of energy and enthusiasm on the work site that the young artists are excited about and dedicated to this project. “We have been very, very busy,” Dave and Liam laughed at the end of the tour, “and maybe our heads bounce around a lot.” 

It looks like this is going to be an event at the Village no one should miss.

The Pumpkin Inferno is scheduled to open October 5, soon after the end of the regular Village season.

“Willard’s will be open during the event,” Susan Le Clair said, “and there will be some delicious pumpkin themed treats throughout the Village. This walking tour is really a family friendly experience. And if people want to come to the Pumpkin Inferno in costumes, they should go right ahead.”

Tickets for the grand Pumpkin Inferno at Upper Canada Village are already on sale. Check the Village website for dates and prices.

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