PUMPkin it up

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, October 29, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Lacy Wimberly, a student at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, etched the image of a gremlin onto her pumpkin, and entered it into the college’s pumpkin carving contest.

Mom’s carving knife can stay in the drawer, because this Halloween many Miss-Lou residents have taken a different approach to jack-o-lanterns.

Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s pumpkin contest featured designs applied with paint, glitter, gauze, wooden letters and even medical tape and respiratory supplies.

Emma Braley hugs up to her pumpkin doppelgänger at Vidalia Lower Elementary School.

Third-semester student Lacy Wimberly’s pumpkin wasn’t coated with paint or carved into a devilish smile, but scratched to depict a “gremlin.”

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Wimberly attacked her pumpkin with a small etching tool instead of a serrated knife. The etching is artfully applied to the pumpkin — which serves as a soft, but perishable, canvas.

Wimberly, who aspires to be an art teacher after graduation, said she wanted to do something different for the pumpkin contest, so she got online for ideas.

“I got a few different ideas together and came up with that,” Wimberly said. “The first thing I did was hollow it out, (then I) took a pencil and drew the basic shape. Then I scraped the skin.”

Wimberly said anyone can etch a pumpkin. She got the tool at Walmart. She said the challenge was right up her alley.

“I like to do stuff like that just for fun,” Wimberly said. “I enjoy creating things. I do everything from carpentry to sewing.”

The first-and second-grade hall at Vidalia Lower Elementary was lined with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes this week — and some with arms and legs.

NICOLE ZEMA | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT At left, warty knucklehead pumpkins weren’t the biggest sellers at the First Church pumpkin patch, but Tejuana Johnson, who oversaw the patch, said they were her favorite because the knuckleheads are so unusual.

Periodic projects are assigned to students at VLE with the intention of getting parents to collaborate on creative assignments. These pumpkins were not carved, but painted and adorned with everything from plastic eyeballs to clothes.

Second-grader Emma Braley’s pumpkin was a double decker — a small, almost life-sized head with a rotund pumpkin body dressed in a VLE uniform. The pumpkin, also named Emma Braley, had arms, legs, khaki pants and even a stylish pair of Tom’s shoes. To top it off, the pumpkin’s hair was made of at least one dozen No. 2 pencils and its head was finished with a sporty pair of sunglasses.

“When I was asleep my mom came in and measured my hand,” Braley said. “The arms are how long mine are. The legs are made of stuffing.”

Braley said she thought it was a nice touch to add a sign in the pumpkin’s hand, reading “School is cool.”

Pumpkins were judged Friday at VLE.

Back in Natchez, hundreds of Miss-Lou students and many families have visited the First Church pumpkin patch over the past weeks.

Tejuana Johnson, who pastors the church with her husband, James, said most folks want to take home the traditional round, shiny pumpkins.

“Families pick out a pumpkin like they pick out a Christmas tree,” Johnson said. “(The supply) is really starting to thin out now.”

But Johnson said her favorite pumpkins are the funky ones. Knucklehead pumpkins have deep autumn hues and appear covered in lumpy warts. Johnson said the knuckleheads, and the white pumpkins available at the patch, are special.

Knucklehead pumpkins, also called “superfreaks” are a product of careful genetic selection, according to Siegers Seed Company in Michigan.

“The textures are different, the colors are so different, and I just like the vibrant color, especially the two-toned ones,” Johnson said.

“For me, they are perfect for décor. They would be good in an entry way or foyer, or as a table centerpiece. They are a statement by themselves.”

Johnson said funds raised at the pumpkin patch will be used for youth group travel expenses to a national youth convention in Tulsa, Okla.