On November 1st, Halloween might be over, but your neighbourhood still has a chance to come together to share in a Pumpkin Parade. Pumpkin Parades involve bringing all of the community jack-o-lanterns to the park to create a magical gallery of pumpkins for the neighbourhood to enjoy. They’re simple to execute and are growning in popularity. Find out why.
On November 1st, Halloween might be over, but your neighbourhood still has a chance to come together to share in a Pumpkin Parade. Pumpkin Parades provide an opportunity to have a magical evening with your neighbours to enjoy the artistry of jack-o-lanterns one last time.
Here’s how it works: Community members gather up their jack-o-lanterns and bring them to the park, placing them along designated pathways. If you make the right arrangements up front, the pumpkins can be put in a compost bin at the end of the night, giving people another incentive to bring their jack-o-lanterns to the park.
This non-denominational, non-religious, and free festival has caught on in Toronto (47 Parades in 2017) and has already spread to Regina, Burnaby, Montreal and St. Johns. Its appeal is largely due to the fact that Pumpkin Parades are quite easy to put together and they are a great event for families in particular. However, the events attract a healthy cross-section of community members including seniors, teens, professional photographers and enthusiastic Instagrammers alike.
If your local park doesn’t have a Pumpkin Parade yet, and you’d like to create one with your community park group, here is a step-by-step guide to starting your own glowing tradition.
Find your own pathTake a walk around the park with your community park group and choose the best route for your pumpkin parade. It's hard to predict how many jack-o-lanterns will be part of the Parade in the first year, but make sure you have the flexibility to make the path longer if necessary. Keep wheelchair and stroller accessibility in mind and find opportunities to place pumpkins on different levels for optimum visibility.
Take care of paperworkMost park events of this size require a permit. Due to the enthusiasm for Pumpkin Parades in Toronto, there is a special permit for Torontonians that makes hosting a Pumpkin Parade simple and affordable. If you’d like to host a Pumpkin Parade in your city, make sure you acquire the proper permits and insurance to make the event a success. One of these arrangements is managing the disposal of the Jack-o-lanterns at the end of the night. You will need to plan this with the park supervisor and perhaps municipal authorities. If neither can provide help with waste disposal, consider fundraising for a private compost bin.
Get the Word Out:One Pumpkin Parade has a motto: "No pumpkin gets left behind." Make sure your neighbours know to bring their jack-o-lanterns to the parade and show up in droves by promoting the pulp out of your parade. Put up posters at local businesses or have households put a small flyer in trick-or-treat bags. Be sure to mention on the flyer if you will be supplying candles and matches or if you prefer participants to bring their own (it’s best to have a few candles and matches on hand in case someone forgets). Think of ways you can get local businesses, schools and community groups involved in pumpkin carving and spreading of information in the lead-up to the big day. Consider setting up a challenge to get a set number of pumpkins to the park and promote it widely to get people engaged.
Engage volunteersThere are some key roles volunteers can help with on November 1st. Get volunteers to arrive early to help get the pathway started. Otherwise, people may just leave their pumpkins in random locations, or take them back home. Second, volunteers can distribute candles and help light jack-o-lanterns. Finally, throughout the night (particularly when it's windy) volunteers can re-light pumpkins that have lost their spark. In addition, make sure volunteers have a table set up to collect sign-ups for your e-newsletter and ask people if they want to sign on to volunteer for next year's Pumpkin Parade.
All gourd things must come to an endMake sure you round up the jack-o-lanterns and pitch them into the compost bin. Some groups make a game out of this less glamourous aspect of the event by calling it "The Great Pumpkin Toss." Make sure you leave the park spotless. Then, you can start planning your next parade.
Tips & Bonus Ideas
Music and Lights?While there's something to be said for the simplicity of Pumpkin Parades, you can add drama to the event by introducing spooky music and lights.
Hot Beverages and SnacksOf course warm drinks set the scene on a chilly night. You might consider serving hot chocolate, coffee or cider. However, remember public health regulations and permit requirements about serving food in the park.
Engage the Arts CommunityThere are hidden artists in every community. Invite local visual artists to make special jack-o-lanters that can be displayed at local businesses before the event as a promotional tool.
Who ever said Halloween should only last one night?Janie Romoff General Manager, Toronto Parks Forestry and Recreation