Autumn is in full swing, especially here in New England, and student groups and departments are hosting a variety of events for fall-time fun. The University of Connecticut’s Human Resources division recently conducted its first Pumpkin Palooza event at the Storrs campus.
The event has been a mainstay of Halloween activities for many years at the UConn Health centers, attached to the John Dempsey Teaching Hospital in Farmington and a satellite branch in Torrington. This year, participants have joined together to carve and decorate a variety of pumpkins which students, staff and the public can vote for using an online portal. Pumpkins were accepted from divisions, student groups and individuals at both campuses. Decorators also had the option of submitting a photo of a “virtual pumpkin” as long as the work was original.
On the morning of Tuesday Oct. 24, pumpkin entries were showcased on the Student Union Terrace, including spooky Halloween designs from a variety of departments, “I am Pump-Kenough” inspired by the Barbie movie, the “Phantom of Neurosurgery” and more. People were encouraged to use the interactive voting portal located on the Human Resources webpage to browse all the entries and comment. Over 20 entries were showcased both in-person and virtually. “It’s been successful at UConn Health, but this was the first year that we did a Pumpkin Palooza [at the main campus],” explained Emma Belekewicz, UConn Human Resources assistant. “We want to make it a tradition.”
The tradition of carving and decorating pumpkins has deep roots and has become an integral part of autumn and Halloween festivities. This practice, believed to have originated in Ireland, is a captivating blend of artistry and folklore. The origins of pumpkin carving can be traced back to the Irish practice of carving turnips or potatoes to create lanterns. Originally meant to ward off evil spirits, these tokens represented the embodiment of “Stingy Jack,” a character from Irish folklore who made a deal with the Devil. When Irish immigrants brought this tradition to America, they discovered that pumpkins and squashes were more suitable for carving due to their larger size and ease of manipulation. Thus, the modern pumpkin jack-o’-lantern was born.
Today, pumpkin carving is an exciting and creative way to celebrate Halloween. You may have gathered with your family to carve intricate designs, from spooky faces to spooky scenes. Events and activities have also sprung up, often based around competing for the most impressive pumpkin. Pumpkin carving has evolved into a form of self-expression, allowing for an imaginative blank canvas for a fun activity to take part in during the fall season.
Through UConn Health, the Pumpkin Palooza festivities are also a part of the “Seasons of Gratitude.” This series of events are meant to recognize achievements in the UConn system, building community and fundraising for the “Cans for Candy” food drive, in support of the Husky Harvest pantry which has locations on all UConn campuses.