For some, Halloween can be a favorite time of year. There’s the rustle and aroma of fallen autumn leaves, crisp fall air, and the preparation of elaborate outside decorations that make trick-or-treaters squeal with excitement. And then, of course, there’s the fun of pumpkin carving.
For Charlie Gobel and his son, Frankie, October has become a time to carve out some festive bonding time together by creating pumpkin masterpieces from intricate design templates patterned after celebrities, as well as things that go bump in the night. The dynamic duo has been perfecting their artistry since they first started this father-son activity almost 20 years ago.
Their unique talents have helped transform the two pumpkin masters into somewhat of a local legend in these parts. Through the years, this team has whipped up some of the scariest, kookiest and funniest creations that have adorned their front stoop and have been the topic of conversation at many a holiday affair.
The father-son team started crafting their art in 1994 as a way to have fun while building the strong bond they have today. “Halloween is one of my favorite times of year, and when Frankie was 3 or 4, I’d carve a typical jack o-lantern and Frankie would help by scooping out the pumpkin seeds. A few years later, we bought a special pumpkin carving kit – and the rest, as they say is history.”
As a divorced dad, Charlie began to see this annual event as more than a one day holiday. “For most people, Halloween is a one day celebration. For Frankie and me, it was another way of spending constructive – and fun – time together,” Charlie remembers. “Our pumpkin carving activities offered almost a month’s worth of fun as we travelled to different pumpkin patches, took in the gorgeous fall foliage; enjoyed hayrides, and worked on Halloween costumes.”
According to Charlie, a finished carving with an elaborate design can take anywhere from two to four hours to complete. “Frankie can get them down in half that time now,” Charlie boasts. “Occasional mistakes can be made, and we have been known to inadvertently slice off a nose or two. We've become pretty good at hiding our mistakes without anyone noticing.”
Here are some basic step-by-step directions on creating a jack o’lantern to remember:
#1-Select the right type of pumpkins to be carved (proper size, smoothness in the front, etc.).
#2-Cut open, and scoop out the pumpkin seeds and "gook" as one would do for a regular jack-o-lantern carving.
#3-"Trim", or shave the inner wall of the pumpkin, against which the carving will be worked-upon on the other side. This can be done with the apparatus used to scoop out the pumpkin seeds. A one inch-in-depth pumpkin wall is a lot easier to carve in a creative way than a two-inch wall.
#4 - Scotch tape the pattern to be used onto the pumpkin.
#5 - Use a "Poker" (a tool provided by most pumpkin carving kits) to poke holes around the pattern. Then remove the pattern from the pumpkin.
#6- Utilize two, different tiny "Saws" (also provided by the kit) too carve the pumpkin, following the holes that were poked on the pumpkin's face.
The Gobel team has almost 500 templates in their inventory. The carvers choose a pattern when the “spirit” moves them. “We’ve scouted more than 40 pumpkin patches in the tri-state area over the years, and we can say that the Pumpkin Patch at the First Congregational Church has had the best pumpkins by far."
Come see their Pumpkin Carving Demo on October 13, from 2-5 PM, at the First Congregational Church's Annual Pumpkin Patch, 109 Continental Avenue, River Edge. (Corner of Kinderkamack Road and Continental Avenue)
If you can't make it, stop by the Pumpkin Patch any day, from October 6-31, mornings until at least 7 PM for your pumpkin or baked treats. In addition, some other planned events include:
- October 20 -- 9 am to 2 PM -- Fall Thrift Sale -- There won't be tricks here, just plenty of treats to choose from, including household items, jewelry, small appliances, toys and clothing.
- October 28 -- 5 PM -- Pumpkin Carving and Pot Luck Dinner -- Come join the fun at our annual pumpkin carving and pot luck dinner that is opened to the public. Just bring a dish to share and a pumpkin (or buy one at the Patch). Guests are also asked to bring their own carving tools.