Halloween event provides a venue for the talents of local students –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Jack-O-Nation, the newest attraction in Adams County, is luring tourists from as far away as Michigan and Pennsylvania to Woodland Altars Park, five miles east of Peebles. The Halloween extravaganza features thousands of painted and intricately carved pumpkins created by local high school students.
“I’d never been to a pumpkin show in my life,” says the park’s owner Tom Partin. “But I noticed, driving around this time of year that people are decorating their homes. Halloween is the second busiest holiday for decorating, and I saw it as an opportunity to bring something new to the county.”
Partin and his wife Melissa, who purchased the park earlier this year, say they were surprised that so many of the Jack-O-Nation visitors were from out-of-town.
“They’re seeing it on Facebook,” Melissa said. “Our son told us Facebook is where you want to advertise this event, and I’m thrilled it’s bringing business to the county.”
According to Partin, five million people have clicked “Like” on the Jack-O-Nation Facebook page and the event has drawn hundreds of visitors each weekend throughout the month of October.
“People are coming in groups, whole families,” Partin said. “Our chalets in the back are being rented on airbnb.com, they’re completely full and sold out for the next two months.”
Partin says he hopes to see more local people attending the event, “It’s going to take time, we want local people to come too, but right now we’re attracting a different crowd on airbnb.”
Art students from Manchester, West Union, Peebles, Eastern Brown, Western Brown, and Venture Productions created the animation-themed pumpkin art for the month-long event.
“We didn’t tell them how to decorate the pumpkins,” Partin says. “We told them, just cut a hole in the bottom and have at it. We’ve had people from as far away as Pennsylvania, Cleveland, and Michigan come and stay three to five hours to see the kids’ artwork, the unfortunate thing is every two weeks we have to totally replace the pumpkins.”
Visitors follow lighted trails through the park’s woodland areas where displays of Jack-O-Lanterns flicker and glow from bridges, creek beds, and fallen logs.
The family-friendly, wheelchair-accessible event also features outdoor theater productions, hayrides, a bounce house and hay bale maze, face painting and crafts for kids, a computer animated display with singing pumpkins, massive animals made from round hay bales, concessions, and a state-of-the-art light show called Pixel City.
Created by computer students from the Career and Technical Center in West Union, the Pixel City light show was designed using multiple reels of multi-colored pixels programmed in sync with music.
“The students chose the music and programmed the lights to correspond to the music without even seeing what it would look like here,” said Partin. “It’s just amazing, these kids don’t realize how good they are.”
A Christmas show is in the works at the park, but Partin says he has no idea yet what that will look like. “We’re learning, this is our first year and we’re learning. Next year we’ll have even more, and Pixel City will be a lot bigger than it is now.”