4,000 jack-o'-lanterns return to Lake Zurich park event
With fall's official arrival, work is going full-bore throughout Paulus Park along the west shore of Lake Zurich to welcome the season.
However, what's being assembled here isn't about ghosts and goblins and other Halloween frights. Jack O'Lantern World isn't scary, but a spectacle to behold on a fall night.
About 4,000 elaborately carved jack-o'-lanterns will be featured in 20 different displays positioned along three-quarters of a mile of meandering paths through thick oaks.
"This is the antithesis of the haunted house. It's something new. It's something exciting," said Peter Starykowicz of All Community Events, Inc., the Lake Zurich-based company organizing the event.
On Wednesday, Starykowicz was directing a crew of about 25 in what he estimates will take 2,000 working hours to get Jack-o'-lantern World ready for opening night Sept. 30. The former architect had the idea for what is described as a "whimsical celebration of Halloween art, nature and fall" about five years ago.
The event, which runs through Oct. 30, debuted at Paulus Park last year.
"When I first came up with the idea, I was not aware of the enormity of the undertaking," he said.
"I have a whole team of carpenters, artisans, and event planners that are behind me," he added. "There are about 50 people who come together to make this happen."
Real pumpkins will be added to the mix as the event nears. Since March, local and area artists at the company's warehouse in Lake Zurich have been carving realistic-looking "faux pumpkins" from a foam substance.
"We have pumpkins that took 15 to 20 hours to carve," Starykowicz said.
The theme this year is "Around the World" and features jacks from places including Egypt, Mexico, Africa, Australia, and Ireland -- where the practice of decorating pumpkins originated. Landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, Great Pyramid and a 45-foot long Viking ship with operating oars.
"It's the same route (through the park) but it's a totally different experience," said Starykowicz, a Long Grove native. "There's not one pumpkin that's the same as last year."
One section featuring more than 200 pink pumpkins is dedicated in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
A pumpkin becomes a jack-o'-lantern when it is carved and illuminated. Seeing so many of them arranged in various displays during the day is something in itself. But the magic happens when it gets dark, Starykowicz said.
"When you come at night and everything lights up, it's incredible," he said. "Nothing compares to the looks on people's faces when they see all this."
The event is open evenings, Thursdays through Sundays. Times vary. Tickets run $14 to $24 and must be bought online at thejackolanternworld.com.
Lake Zurich officials are excited the event is returning to Paulus Park and bringing newcomers to town. More than 70,000 are expected to attend this year, according to All Community Events.
"Special events, festivals, and triathlons are all boosting the local economy," said Kyle Kordell, assistant to the village manager. Events like this also create "a positive community identity of Lake Zurich as a fun place to be," he added.