This past weekend Eric and I ventured out to the mysterious world Arcadia, CA!!! It's a maze of upscale homes and streets lined with massive trees. Adjacent to this neighborhood is the Santa Anita Racetrack, which was our destination for the evening. Our friend Erin had heard of a pumpkin themed event, Rise of the Jack-o- Lanterns, taking place near her home. She invited us along with her boyfriend Jimmy to see what it was all about.
As with most outings I write about, we didn't pay full price for entry. There are actually a few different ways to find cheap tickets. I definitely know that Goldstar was advertising the event with reduced pricing. For our passes we visited www.therise.org/secretcode and that took us to the site to choose a time. They sell tickets in 15 minutes increments to avoid too much congestion. Now it was time to plan the evening.
Eric and I absolutely love the Arcadia eatery called Moffet's. They have excellent pot pies. So we chose the 8:15 PM pass and planned to have dinner prior. Fast forward to the day we went, a Sunday, Moffet's was closed. It's a small business, family run, so I guess they were allowed a day off. There were no pot pies to be eaten (sad face). We ended up at BJ's, the antithesis of a small business, but the pizza is definitely satisfying.
The parking to the pumpkin event was included. Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns was to take place in the same parking lot. It is important that I mention that the parking lot and entry area was lit by temporary light towers that are loudly run by generators. The "venue" was fenced in by an average sized fence (rent -a -fence) and had a green tarp covering the chain links. As we approached the location it was difficult to see what was going on within. Through the tarps we could make out a lot of orange lights, we assumed they were the lit pumpkins.
The entry way had a few photo opportunities and was lined with booths selling what one might call "CRAP". In these booths I saw the usual plastic light up swords, light up jewelry, and there was even a light up stick. Eric joked that it resembled a crowd control stick from a Disney park. Although it was all junk, seeing all this made me wish our nephews lived closer so that we could bring then along. I bet they would've wanted the light up pirate sword.
The four of us headed further into this lobby area to the queues that were divided by times. It was still around 7:45 PM, but people had already began to line up in the "bull pin" for our entry time. The 7:45 queue was very long at this point. They were obviously all ready to enter. At this point, all of us were a tad unimpressed with their set up. We began to brainstorm how else this could be done. Erin made an excellent point by saying she'd gladly buy a bottle of water in this heat while we wait. Also, we began to joke around about what market hadn't been tapped for this sort of thing. Think about it for a moment. People are paying to go see pumpkin displays. What else would people pay to see and for which holidays?
When it was time to pass into the pumpkin gallery, our tickets were scanned on our iPhones (convenient). Their staff reminded us there were no lines and to keep moving forward. Once we entered the enclosed area, a path that formed a very wide "U", we noticed an issue of light pollution from the surrounding lights.
The lighting would be our biggest complaint. The entire experience was affected by the flood lights set in the parking and entry areas. The light pollution really ruined a few of the scenes they had created. Too bad there wasn't a way for them to get taller fences or even have this in a tent. The event occurs rain or shine, so a tent definitely would have helped. I hope that maybe in the future they will consider that option. We were hoping for a questionnaire, but we never saw one.
The larger displays were further away from the wide path while the singular pumpkins were right against the ropes.
Eric brought up a good point that a lot of these images are owned properties and how did they work around legal action. Of course that is something the coordinators need to worry about, not so much the attendees, but it was just something to think about. To name a few, we saw properties such as Orange is the New Black, Disney, and Sesame Street.
The dinosaurs and Chinese dragon were pretty successful. We liked those because rather than scraping the exterior of the pumpkin, these pumpkins had been fully carved through. There are obviously many ways to bring about a cool design on a pumpkin. Eric and I feel using the more traditional hollowing/carving technique to create a striking scene or image is much more impressive. The difficult part is to get the thin parts of the carved pumpkin to NOT break! Even after saying that, this event definitely has some true talent behind it. Eric and read that the carvers are constantly carving new ones to replace the ones used. It is a lengthy event, all of October.
Would we recommend Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns to anyone reading this? It is very cute and kids would definitely love it. I would say one should enter while keeping in mind that these are merely pumpkins, not at Disneyland or Universal Studios where large sets are created. Here they have the designs speaking for themselves with a few areas containing background music. It was festive to see large families out for an innocent Halloween event. I'll add what I feel is an obvious point. This is not a scary or horror filled event, so kids very young can go. We all agreed that it was a nice "been there, done that" outing. If you can get cheap tickets, like we did, you should check it out. It takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on how slowly you walk.