Pumpkins become art — and boats — at Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival

Pumpkins become art — and boats — at Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival

Updated 7 hours ago

The Great Pumpkin’s got nothing on Wendi Wentzell-Cuc.

The Wheeling, W.Va. native climbed into a 1,500-pound hollowed out gourd on Saturday and paddled her way to victory at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival.

“Why wouldn’t you want to paddle in a pumpkin?” asked Wentzell-Cuc, clad in a firefighter’s helmet and tutu. “I won a Facebook contest to do this and I’m so stoked.”

The race was part of a pumpkin-palooza on the North Shore, where thousands converged on the Golden Triangle’s River Walk to witness colossal carvings, pie-eating contests and an orange orb filled with candy and dropped from a towering, 60-foot crane.

The first-of-its-kind festival was produced by Michael Dongilli and Mike Fetchko, partners in the event management firm Vivid Pittsburgh.

It continues from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Most activities are free.

While gargantuan gourds raced through the murky waters of the Allegheny River, the theme from “Ghostbusters” and “The Addams Family” blared in the background.

Wentzell-Cuc beat a heat of six other contestants that included those dressed as a Viking and a hot dog.

The featured floats were grown mostly in Western Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio.

“I am so happy that this is happening in Pittsburgh,” said Marcia Szczesny, of Harrison, as she admired the racers’ fortitude. “I’ve been wanting to see this for years.

”I was actually thinking about going to one in Oregon, and I’m just so happy to see all these people come out for it here.”

Dean Murray, of Washington state, traveled across the country to take part in the Master Carvers’ “Pumpsburg Profiles.”

Six artists, including Murray, were chosen to chisel the likenesses of famous Pittsburghers onto behemoth pumpkins. Andy Warhol, Mister Rogers and Andrew Carnegie, among others, were expertly etched and on display.

Each portrait took about two days, said Murray, who labels himself a biodegradable artist — he works on ice, cheese and vegetables.

“I was a chef and always carving fruits and veggies when people started requesting work,” he said.

His portrait of Andy Warhol was carved into the side of a 1,624-pound pumpkin that, if lucky, will last about a week, he said.

Murray said the seeds used to grow the gigantic pumpkins are similar to the line of a Thoroughbred horse.

“They know exactly where that seed came from and what kind of pumpkin it will produce,” he said.

Murray has carved pumpkins at the White House and on TV’s Food Network Challenge and Halloween Wars.

Not all the pumpkins at the event were the size of a Volkswagen. Volunteers gave away thousands of basketball-sized gourds to decorate at nearby tables and there were sizes in-between carved to resemble vampires, witches and ghosts.

Dozens of food trucks sold pumpkin-flavored kettle corn, fudge and Italian ice, while others delivered stir-fry, baklava and cotton candy.

Haybales were nestled on the lawn near Heinz Field to double as selfie-stations.

Seven-year-old Lucy Cellender said her favorite part of the festival was picking a pint-sized pumpkin from the patch, but she suspected something event better was coming as she waited for the pumpkin piñata to drop.

“When that thing hits the ground,” she said, “I get candy!”

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, tpanizzi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.

A Viking rows down the Allegheny River in a hollowed pumpkin as part of the paddle races at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20, 2018.

A Viking rows down the Allegheny River in a hollowed pumpkin as part of the paddle races at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20, 2018.

Dean Murray, of Washington, is a Master Carver and was chosen to create a portrait of Andy Warhol on the side of a giant pumpkin for the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20,2018.

Dean Murray, of Washington, is a Master Carver and was chosen to create a portrait of Andy Warhol on the side of a giant pumpkin for the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20,2018.

Festival goers take pictures on large pumpkins at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Festival goers take pictures on large pumpkins at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Pumpkins decorate the North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Pumpkins decorate the North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 20, 2018.

A 1,500-pound pumpkin filled with candy was dropped from a 60-foot crane at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20,2018.

Tawnya Panizzi | Tribune-Review

A 1,500-pound pumpkin filled with candy was dropped from a 60-foot crane at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20,2018.

Racers paddle in hollowed pumpkins down the Allegheny River during the Pittsburgh Monter Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20, 2018

Racers paddle in hollowed pumpkins down the Allegheny River during the Pittsburgh Monter Pumpkins Festival on Oct. 20, 2018

Pittsburgh’s Downtown is seen from the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Pittsburgh’s Downtown is seen from the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Dean Murray, 53, carves pieces of pumpkin inside of a tent at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Dean Murray, 53, carves pieces of pumpkin inside of a tent at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Festival-goers take pictures and look at carved pumpkins inside of a tent at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Festival-goers take pictures and look at carved pumpkins inside of a tent at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Dean Murray, 53, carves pieces of Pumpkin inside of a tent at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Dean Murray, 53, carves pieces of Pumpkin inside of a tent at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Festival-goers take pictures on large pumpkins at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Festival-goers take pictures on large pumpkins at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk along the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Eva Phillips, 5, of Buckhannon, W. Va., climbs down from taking pictures on large pumpkins at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk on the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review

Eva Phillips, 5, of Buckhannon, W. Va., climbs down from taking pictures on large pumpkins at the Pittsburgh Monster Pumpkin Festival on North Shore Riverwalk on the Allegheny River on Oct. 20, 2018.



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Published at Sat, 20 Oct 2018 22:57:53 +0000

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