Mutant Gourds Take Over Downtown
By Duffy Perkins
“I go hard on Halloween, but I never thought I’d be entering the world of professional pumpkin carving,” says Aaron Yealdhall, the Annapolis artist and musician also known as Skribe. Yealdhall is taking a break from playing music to instead carve a 1,400-pound pumpkin into a jack-o’-lantern as part of the annual Great Annapolis Pumpkin display on Friday, Oct. 28,.
For the third year in a row, the Downtown Annapolis Partnership has deposited multiple giant pumpkins around town. Yealdhall and others will be setting up at various stations (“pumpkin patches”) around downtown to transform the mutant gourds into elaborate jack-o’-lanterns that are much more than just a scary face.
Yealdhall was known for his pumpkin carving skillset long before the deviant variations came to Annapolis. “My dad was an artist,” he says, “and every Halloween we’d hang out and get really into carving. It was a big part of our family’s Halloween tradition.”
At October concerts, he’d often show up with a bunch of gourds for the audience to carve up while he performed. His own creations became artwork for posters to advertise his shows around Halloween. The City of Annapolis drafted him two years ago for the first festival, and he’s been a headlining artist ever since.
Yealdhall’s creations are what could only be called “creepy adorable.” The first, in 2020, was a “jack-a-lope,” a somewhat joyfully menacing pumpkin with beady white eyes, antlers, and a green tongue.
“I had just seen a scary movie where the monster had deer antlers,” he says. A discarded Christmas tree was rotting in a far corner of his yard, so he took its withered branches and inserted them into the pumpkin’s temples to take the project to another level.
Last year, a rainstorm prevented him from a long carving session with his pumpkin, so he decorated it with a traffic cone nose, severed doll arms, and a Salvador Dali-esque mustache.
For this year’s pumpkin, Yealdhall says he will wait for organic inspiration before he starts planning. “I’m going to go down there with my tools, a sketchpad, and a whole lot of coffee and just kind of stare at it for a bit, see what it tells me. I’m thinking about the type of monster you’d bring home to Mom and Dad.”
Whether or not they’re appropriate to bring home to the parents, the one thing that is for sure is that these monsters won’t fit under your bed. Just the process of getting the pumpkins to Annapolis is dramatic.
Bumper Moyer, the facilities supervisor for the city’s Parks and Facilities department, makes an annual pumpkin pilgrimage to Western Pennsylvania for these botanical freaks of nature. Pennsylvania farmers bring the pumpkins down and the city uses a forklift to deposit them around town. Moyer works with Garden Girls Landscaping to soften their appearance a bit with friendly hay bales, autumnal flowers, and smaller gourds that have less chance of frightening children.
The pumpkins are currently placed at six locations, and the public is invited to visit them when artists are carving Friday. Yealdhall is bringing spotlights so friends can stay downtown and enjoy the spooky vibes even after dark. Several local businesses have donated prizes, so take your picture with a pumpkin and post it with the hashtag #GreatAnnapolisPumpkin to be entered in the drawings.
The jack-o’-lanterns will be on display all weekend, but after Halloween they’ll be taken to the pumpkin composting site at Truxtun Park. Hopefully the compost site will become the breeding ground for Annapolis’ own army of mutant gourd monsters.
Find the 2022 pumpkins at: Maryland Ave at Church Circle, Hopkins Plaza on Market Space, Corner of Francis and Main Streets, St. Anne’s Church on Church Circle, Visit Annapolis Visitors Center on West Street, Graduate Hotel on West Street.