Fort Thomas resident’s tradition keeps Halloween fun going

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For kids especially, the build up to Halloween is exciting — creating or picking out your costume, or planning out your Trick-or-Treat route. And when All Hallow’s Eve arrives, it’s a whirlwind going from house to house, then going through your “haul,” and, for many, negotiating with your parents about what candy you can eat right away and what has to be put aside for later.

The day after Halloween, much like the day after many holidays and celebrations, can be a bit of a letdown. The decorations come down and the jack-o-lanterns start to sag.

Yet, thanks to one Fort Thomas resident, the day after is the start of a fun post-holiday tradition. For more than two decades, Patti Hudepohl has been “recycling” Halloween pumpkins donated by her friends and neighbors into a new and beautiful display that continues the fun for about a week.

Hudepohl got the idea 21 years ago while helping out with a friend’s October wedding.

“She had wanted geometric shaped carved pumpkins to line a walkway at the reception. Pumpkin lanterns,” she said. “I volunteered to help her dad, and he was the one who introduced me to using a small drywall saw to carve instead of a knife. It was fast and fun (and safer), and we carved at least 20 in a short time.

“When Halloween came a few weeks later, I gathered about 10 pumpkins, carved them, and set them on the back patio. It was really fun, and I realized this could be an annual thing — but after Halloween, because then I might be able to get pumpkins for free. I lit them every night for a week so for the next few years. Opening night was a little party with all the neighbors, and ‘Pumpkinfest’ was born. We had hot spiced cider and pumpkin treats (bread, cookies, ice cream).”

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Hudepohl (l) and her sister JoAnn Buckley (r) get to work the day after Halloween. Buckley flew in special from New Jersey to help her sister out. Photo provided | Peggy Eberhard

Her routine now involves the whole neighborhood.

“I clean the pumpkins all out and cut the lids, and then invite all the neighbor kids to come carve them the day of,” she said. “I usually get about 30 pumpkins.”

She’s had a few challenges along the way, she said. When she first started, she would get 50 or more pumpkins, but it got hard to find space for them all. Lighting them every night became time consuming, not to mention getting rid of that many smelly mushy pumpkins once the week was over.

“In 2020, when there were not many pumpkins to be had, I got about 10 from a neighbor and put them in the front yard,” she said. “The neighbors liked that better cause they could see them every night instead of having to walk into the back yard. So now they are in the front, and I try to limit it to about 20. When they’re all bunched together, they are really bright and make a big impact.”

Patti Hudepohl with this year’s line-up of “recycled” jack-o-lanterns. The display decorates her yard in Fort Thomas in the week following Halloween. Photo provided |Peggy Eberhard

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