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Halloween Goes Patriotic

Back to Vol. 4, Issue 4

by Rochelle Santopoalo

As the first major holiday after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, Halloween was put to the test and came out a winner. American combined their love for Halloween with love of country in some very clever ways. Here are some of the most interesting demonstrations we found.

Pumpkin Carving Templates

Three organizations offered free pumpkin carving templates on their websites: Pumpkin Masters™, PC Jack-O-Lantern, and the Rock ‘n Roll Chef.

Inspired by Teddy Roosevelt’s quote “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have,” Pumpkin Masters™ CEO Gay Burke was moved to help the millions of American families celebrate Halloween while remaining patriotic. The idea for a patriotic display struck in early October and was launched on October 16. Their goal was to have 10 million families participate. Their best estimate was that children, teachers, firemen, and excited pumpkin carvers downloaded 625,000 patriotic pumpkin patterns from LanternsOfLiberty.com. Besides this overwhelming response, they have received letters of gratitude from Americans all over the world for the chance to show national pride on a uniquely American holiday.

The makers of PC Jack-O-Lantern software provided a free American flag pattern for pumpkin carving on their website (no longer available.) Like Pumpkin Masters™, they sought a way to help fellow Americans deal with the 9-11 attack. Besides free downloads at their website, they distributed 10,0000 patterns at the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio.

Lady Liberty took center stage on a free pumpkin-carving pattern at the Rock ‘n Roll Chef’s (Marty Larkin) website (rnrchef.com – no longer available). An estimated 100,000 copies of the pattern were downloaded in October.

Posters & Banners

Wanting both to promote a good image of Halloween and help people deal with the 9-11 attack, Ed Edmonds of Distortions Unlimited approached his good friends and colleagues at Brainstorm Studios to design an image to share with the public. According to Doug Graham (Brainstorms), they wanted to incorporate a traditional Halloween image and reflect the mood of the country. The result was the “Halloween for America” campaign. The design, a jack-o-lantern with a patriotic twist, became the basis for a variety of high-resolution images that could be downloaded and used as posters and banners. Visitors to their website (brainstormstudios.com) were asked to add one of the free banners to their site and donate a portion of the proceeds of their Halloween business, notably dark attractions, to the American Red Cross, N.Y. Fire Fighters Fund or The United Way September 11 fund. This win-win scenario was meant to off-set any negative press Halloween vendors may receive while letting patrons know they were doing something good for the country while having a fun evening.

Launched the third week in September, the response was overwhelmingly positive. In the first day there were over 5,000 accesses to the design. Stories began pouring in of how people were using the “Halloween for America” image; one person even had t-shirts made of the image.

The “Red, White, and BOO!” began on a Halloween Internet list (HOWL2000) as a good-hearted joke. Not known for being the most serious guy, Steve Chavez a.k.a. “Wraith,” volunteered to do some artwork while Mike “Webgoblin” Oakley volunteered to post the artwork ideas on his website. Three images were posted and visitors voted for their favorite (the pumpkin won). The idea was that people would put the artwork in front of their houses or their haunts and accept donations towards the relief efforts of 9-11. Then, on Halloween night the second piece of the grassroots campaign was for participants to have a receptacle available for donations that would then go to the charity of their choice. The campaign generated a lot of discussion on the HOWL2000 list and helped people feel involved with helping America while celebrating their favorite holiday. One list member, Pam Liebson, took it a step further and even had nice brass pins made featuring the image.

Pumpkin Sculptures

Once pumpkins get beyond a hundred pounds, they’re no longer carved—they’re sculpted. Several artists produced noteworthy displays of patriotism.


Russ and Pam Leno of Everett, Washington used their master sculpting skills in depicting the Firefighter Memorial on a monstrous 912-pound pumpkin for the Washington State Fair in Puyallup this past September. The pumpkin was grown by Joel Holland, a retired fire fighter, who made the special request of the Leno’s (who sculpt under their company name “Sleepy Hallow Master Pumpkin Carvers”) the evening prior to the fair to sculpt an image commemorating the firefighters. Frantic, the Leno’s and Holland searched for pictures of fire fighters at Ground Zero and eventually found just the right image to be embedded in the pumpkin. Over the next two days, the Leno’s spent 14 hours sculpting the pumpkin. Unlike other pumpkin sculptings, this one touched people in subtle even somber ways. As a vet, sculpting the image conjured very different feelings for Russ than any other project that he had done.

Mike Valladao (“Pumpkin Mike”) is well known as the official carver for the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival (California) that attracts 250,000 people to the two-day event. In light of the 9-11 attack, he decided to sculpt one of the giant pumpkins into a bald eagle flying across the sky for a patriotic approach. The public was given the opportunity to win it by guessing the pumpkin’s weight. Roxanna Eslamiel of Mission Viego, California was the lucky winner who took it home this masterpiece for her Halloween celebration.

While the terrorists took many things from Americans on September 11th, we’re a strong and passionate nation with broad shoulders and generous hearts. This past autumn millions of us made a conscientious decision to continue to celebrate Halloween with wholehearted enthusiasm. After all, Halloween fans aren’t about to give up celebrating their favorite holiday without a good fight.


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