Just as the town’s celebrated sand sculptures are being cleared for winter, new artistic displays have popped up in Yarmouth.
Giant carved pumpkins, complete with cornstalks, bales of hay, and other autumnal adornments, are part of a test promotion this year by the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Yarmouth. There’s a continuity to the decorations, too.
The carvings were created by Sean Fitzpatrick of Fitzysnowman Studios, the same artist behind the whimsical sand sculptures that have brought delight to Yarmouth’s visitors and residents for more than a decade.
Fitzpatrick, who specializes in three-dimensional street art and carves pumpkins when he’s not working with sand, says the installations this year might be the start of something bigger.
“This is just a test run, to see if people like it,” he explained.
Three ornately carved pumpkins are featured in seasonal displays — one at the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Center on Route 28 in West Yarmouth, another at Town Hall, and a third at Strawberry Lane in Yarmouth Port.
“They’re all 100-pound pumpkins, and they’re sitting on top of three bales of hay,” he said. They get a little decoration, and they are enclosed inside a temporary loop of fencing to keep them safe.
The carvings are done in relief, Fitzpatrick explained, using thin layers to create the images, as opposed to the typical jack-o-lantern with triangular eyes cut clean through the pumpkin’s hull. And the subjects? Well, they’re in line with both Cape Cod and the Halloween season, of course.
One carving depicts a ghostly pirate ship flying the Jolly Roger with a pirate at the stern. Another shows a haunted church, flanked by menacing, leafless trees and bats flying overhead, ostensibly exiting the belfry at dusk. The third is a deathly stagecoach pulled by a troika of steeds with the Grim Reaper holding reins in one hand and wielding a scythe in the other.
Fitzpatrick uses Big Max pumpkins — a variety known as much for its uniform shape and brilliant orange skin as for its hefty size. “They’re beautiful, smooth-skinned pumpkins, and so they really do create a nice contrast,” he said.
“The very first thing I have to do is make the design,” he explained. “So, I’ll do some sketches, look at some reference photos, and I’ll draw something up.”
Not all sketches translate into a relief carving on a spherical pumpkin, so Fitzpatrick avoids “super-thin draw lines.” When he’s settled on the design, the artist uses wood-carving tools and Thai fruit-carving knives, which are superb for intricate work, he said.
Like sand sculptures, pumpkin carvings are ephemeral, so they should be enjoyed before they disappear — hopefully after Halloween if the weather isn’t too warm.
“We’d like to get as many people out there to see them as possible,” Fitzpatrick said. Pumpkins “are living organisms … and we’ve cut off their life support.”
When the displays are ultimately taken down, Fitzpatrick hopes the carvings will return in greater numbers next October, and that depends on whether people get out this year to enjoy the artwork. It’s a great ice-breaker and a surefire way to melt away the stress, he says.
“When you’re driving down the street, you do a double-take, and say, ‘What was that sculpture?’ And there’s this big pumpkin,” he said. “And now you’re smiling, and everything else that was bugging you — you don’t even remember it.”
If it changes one person’s day, “then my job is done,” Fitzpatrick said.
It’s “just something nice to put smiles on people’s faces,” he noted. “I mean we need that more than anything.”
TONS AND TONS AND TONS OF PUMPKINS
Those who want to test their own carving skills can find the appropriate raw materials at the West Yarmouth Congregational Church, which is midway through its 17th season of hosting the Pumpkin Patch fundraiser.
Rev. Charles Soule says the church receives two shipments during the fall, each containing about 30,000 pounds of pumpkins. Unloading and stacking them around the church’s lawn is performed by volunteers, who also work in shifts at the Pumpkin Patch, helping customers select the perfect gourds or pumpkins. Prices vary by size, with the smallest selling for $1 and the largest going for up to $35 or $40. Rev. Soule says most customers can take home a nice, big carving pumpkin for about $10.
The Pumpkin Patch is open until the end of October, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to dusk and on Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to dusk. The church is also selling fresh and frozen apple pies, along with other baked goods, on Oct. 30. Find more at the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce website.
This pumpkin carving initiative is funded through the Town of Yarmouth’s Tourism Revenue Preservation Fund.
Andy Tomolonis is a textbook author, travel writer, and freelance multimedia journalist.