CARVING out a niche

Judging Kilgore Intermediate School students' decorated pumpkins Thursday, judges (from left) Jan Hattaway, Janet Marley, Reggie Henson and Chelsea Katz selected the top pumpkins in three groups and multiple categories. (Below) Billie Hall purchases two pumpkins from St. Luke's United Methodist Church member Bruce Tindell Thursday ndash; the church is hosting numerous Pumpkin Patch events today from 10 a.m. to after dark. NEWS HERALD photos by CHELSEA KATZ
Judging Kilgore Intermediate School students’ decorated pumpkins Thursday, judges (from left) Jan Hattaway, Janet Marley, Reggie Henson and Chelsea Katz selected the top pumpkins in three groups and multiple categories. (Below) Billie Hall purchases two pumpkins from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church member Bruce Tindell Thursday – the church is hosting numerous Pumpkin Patch events today from 10 a.m. to after dark.
NEWS HERALD photos by CHELSEA KATZ
“Halloween is my favorite time of the year,” Kilgore College Food Service Director Gary Crouch said.

The KC Food Service department brings a little Halloween flair to the Ranger Café each year. While the food is the same, they each have a spooky influence.

Anyone eating in the Ranger Café will get a special Halloween treat – or trick – of vampire’s blood, ghost drippings or werewolf fingers. Before turning the other way, though, Crouch said the food is nothing too out of the ordinary. Many of the food and drinks will simply have some added food color or gummy candies in them.

“Just ways to break the monotony of coming in and eating food,” Alexander said.

Unlike some college or university cafeterias, Ranger Café is open to the public with an all-you-careto eat – or all you dare to eat Halloween – for $6.92 plus tax.

With a small pumpkin patch set up, students can come in and decorate or carve a pumpkin for the annual contest. The decorating can include anything from paint and glitter to glue and stickers.

“It’s really whatever your mind can think of,” Crouch said.

On average there are about 12 pumpkins in the patch each year and about eight will be selected to be turned into masterpieces.

“We just want to create as much fun as we can for them,” Crouch said.

City of Kilgore Human Resources Director Michele Kincaid judges pumpkins decorated in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by employees of the Willows alongside judges (not pictured) Martha Fertitta and James Draper. NEWS HERALD photo by JAMES DRAPER
City of Kilgore Human Resources Director Michele Kincaid judges pumpkins decorated in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month by employees of the Willows alongside judges (not pictured) Martha Fertitta and James Draper.
NEWS HERALD photo by JAMES DRAPER
A constant resident of the KC pumpkin patch is Goliath – formerly known as “Big Mac.” Goliath is the largest pumpkin the staff can get that year, and students get a chance to guess Goliath’s true size.

The winner of the contests will receive coupons to use at the various on-campus dining facilities.

“It’s kind of a morale booster and something for the kids to have extra to do,” Crouch said.

While the students have fun with pumpkins, he said, Food Service staff get to have their own inhouse costume contest.

While KC Food Assistant Service Director Patrick Alexander was born on Halloween, Crouch’s favorite parts of the holiday revolve around the darkness and the creativity. Along with those elements, Crouch said, he enjoys the stories and lore that come out of Halloween and are associated with the day.

“I know it’s kind of odd, but it’s not commercialized, like Valentine’s and Christmas,” he said. “Those become more of a commercialized holiday. This one – it’s Halloween. It’s still true to itself of what it is.”

At St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, pumpkin season means a time when children frequent the church’s property for picture opportunities and to pick out their perfect pumpkin for Halloween once the orange gourds arrive Oct. 1.

Each Saturday, the church hosts an event. With Family Fun Day Oct. 18, today – Oct. 25 – will include a bake sale and Kiwanis Club Barbecue and a Blessing of the Animals service. After a midday break, the festivities will return at 6 p.m. with the Rusk County Dulcimer Group to play music to accompany pumpkin carving and then Pumpkin Glow.

This will be the first year for the Pumpkin Glow, and it will consist of the pumpkins visitors select to carve earlier in the evening.

People selecting pumpkins from the patch for free are asked to leave their designs for the church to use throughout the end of the month for decorations. Those who wish to take their project home can purchase the pumpkin from St. Luke’s staff before the carving activities begin.

Cecilia Mitchell, who is in charge of the annual St. Luke’s Pumpkin Patch, hopes a group of Kilgore High School artists will be able to come and carve one of the large pumpkins, weighing between 100 and 125 pounds.

Although it will depend on how many Jack-o-Lanterns they get, Mitchell said, she hopes to line the sidewalk with pumpkins illuminated up by candles.

This will be the first year for the Pumpkin Glow, after adding Music in the Patch last year, she said. “We try to add something new each year,” Mitchell said.

“We’ve had different ones carved and things, but we’ve never had, like, a Pumpkin Glow, where once they carve, we light them all up,” she said.

Although they have both ended or passed, Mitchell said, her favorite events during the fall festivities are the story time activities for the children and Family Fun Day.

“I just love to see [the children’s] reactions in the Pumpkin Patch because it’s just, like, they have so much fun just running – you know, running through the pumpkins, sitting on the pumpkins (and) laying on the pumpkins,” she said.

The last pumpkin event for the church will be “Trunk-or-Treat” and the “Great Pumpkin Adventure” during which children can roast marshmallows and make s’mores – some attempting the sticky treat for the first time.

“That’s fun because we do get more from the community because of the trick-or-treating,” she said.

As passersby see the commotion on the lawn of the church, Mitchell said, some will stop to find out see what’s happening and choose to stay. Some people, including one group from Oklahoma and another man from Iran in town to see family, stopped by the Patch during Family Fun Day.

“He was here, though, visiting family,” Mitchell said. “He didn’t come just for Pumpkin Patch.”

In the first year to have corporate sponsors, including families in the church, Mitchell said, those sponsorships ended up paying for the expenses associated with the Pumpkin Patch, so the profits from the pumpkin sales can go toward other organizations in the community.

“It’s just evangelism for the community,” she said. “We want children to come to church to find that church, that God is here, but it’s also a fun place for you to come. We are one big family, and we ant them to feel like they always have a family here at St. Luke’s. That is our purpose.”

For the pumpkins that are not used for Halloween or fall decorations will be disposed of by the tigers at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge. “They like pumpkins, so they take them there. They do not go to waste.”