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North Hills Monthly

THE GLOW: A Jack o’Lantern Experience Comes to Hartwood

Sep 30, 2018 05:57PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

The fall festival coming to Hartwood Acres this October can only be described in glowing terms. This is because visitors will be able to meander through more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns at THE GLOW: A Jack O’ Lantern Experience at Hartwood Acres in Hampton Township.

Although THE GLOW has been around for about three years, this is the first year that the festival will make its way to Pittsburgh. In fact, the event will only come to three other U.S. cities this year—Charlotte, NC, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia, PA.

“The idea came from wanting to create a family event that was based on Halloween,” explained Lauren Kutch, marketing and PR manager for THE GLOW. “The company hadn’t seen any full-family event that wasn’t scary; we wanted to keep that artistic vibe and make it fun.”

The company, which is affiliated with Autism Speaks, wanted to create an event that would be appropriate for children with autism; specifically, one that was not overly visual or stimulating. In fact, there are certain days and times in which the festival is exclusively for those with autism; the lights are kept a bit lower and it begins before it gets too dark.

So how much planning goes into carving and displaying a gallery of 5,000 pumpkins?

Several months before the festival begins, the production team begins to brainstorm ideas for unique jack-o’-lanterns. A cadre of about 16 artisans begins working on carving the pumpkins at least a month or so before the event. 

Because of the ‘perishable’ nature of the artwork, compounded by the potential for poor weather, the original carvers travel to festival sites with their creations to ensure that the jack-o’-lanterns stay fresh; if any appear to be deteriorating, they are recarved and replaced with an exact replica on the days that the festival is not open to the public.

Based on previous years’ inventory, the creativity of the carvers is boundless. Last year in Philadelphia, the festival featured a carnival theme, complete with a Ferris wheel of pumpkins and pumpkin ‘families’ enjoying the carnival. 

Kutch said that Pittsburgh festivalgoers should expect to see princess pumpkins, dinosaur pumpkins, motorcyclist pumpkins, Pittsburgh sports figure pumpkins and much, much more.

Although similar fall events are held in other cities, Kutch said that THE GLOW stands out in part because of its family-friendly nature. Other events are often scarier. “This is a different experience altogether that takes pumpkins and throws them into a whole other land and brings them to life,” she said.

Despite its appeal to the youngest of children, Kutch said that the event also draws older children and adults as well. “It’s a great date-night event; it’s nice to come and appreciate the artwork,” she said.

Tickets are sold in half-hour increments so that the grounds do not get overly crowded. The path is circular and runs about 1/3 of a mile; at a leisurely pace, it should take between 30 and 40 minutes to walk through, allowing time for photos. Food and drinks will be sold on the grounds as well.

Based on how everything goes this year, Kutch said that the company would love to make this an annual event in Pittsburgh. “We’ll see how the trail works out and how accessible it is for families,” she added.

Advanced, timed tickets are required. To purchase, visit https://theglowjackolantern.com. The festival runs Thursdays through Sundays beginning Oct. 4 through Oct. 28. Hours of operation are 7-9:30 p.m. For discount codes, sign up for “Jack’s Club” emails via the website.