By Katrice Sutherland
Stephanie Lavoie, bundled in her winter-wear, sat under a tent just out of reach from the rain, glancing between a photo of Betty Boop and her half-carved pumpkin.
Lavoie, a second-year hospitality and tourism student, was one of 12 students who took a private master class in carving pumpkins at the college on Friday Oct. 25.
Recruited by Chef Scott Warrick, Lavoie dove into the opportunity on a whim.
“I looked into it and found out they were going to give us a workshop for two hours and then we’d get to go carve pumpkins during the weekend,” said Lavoie.
Students from the hospitality and tourism, culinary skills and chef training program learned new techniques for creating pumpkin art beyond the traditional jack-o-lantern.
“We learned the basics of carving a face,” said Brittney Eagles, a second-year culinary management student.
“It’s not really so much carving — it’s more like sculpting because you’re not cleaning out the pumpkin and you’re not cutting it. You’re scraping layer after layer of the pulp off.”
Chris Soria, the co-founder of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers and his team member José Rodríguez, were invited from Brooklyn New York by the Westboro Village Business Improvement Area to come and present their unique visual craft at the third annual Wickedly Westboro event.
“Students learn the tricks of the Maniac style, and will help to demonstrate this incredible brand of pumpkin carving,” said Mary Thorne, the executive director of Westboro Village BIA.
Thorne worked with Chef Scott Warrick from Algonquin College to organize student involvement in Wickedly Westboro on the weekend of Oct. 26-27.
“They’re learning a skill that is quite relevant to the industry and for them to have an opportunity to lean from two guys, who are considered the best – I thought it was a great idea,” said Warrick.
Six demonstration tents were dispersed along Richmond Road and students had a chance to explore further designs, practise the carving method and answer question from community members.
Eagles said that a common question was in regards to the types of tools they were using, which were clay modeling scrapers.
Several students told the Times that despite the technique training and creative planning, the shape and density of each individual pumpkin played a huge role in design, and helped to give each its unique appearance.
“The pumpkin decides what it wants to be,” said Travis McShane, a volunteering student who designed a vampire bat into his pumpkin.
Soria and Rodriquez donated a number of specialty-carved pumpkins to the event for a silent auction, which was raising money toward the Westboro Food Banks.
To thank them for their efforts, Mayor Jim Watson made an appearance at the event on Oct. 26.
Watson helped hand out the Maniac pumpkin prizes to winning bidders, and received a pumpkin with his portrait engraved on it from Soria.
Students looking to fill hours for their program, picked up many creative ideas from the experience and made an interesting contribution to a local event which benefited those in need as the colder months approach.
“Every week we get emails about volunteer opportunities for ‘this catering job, this barbeque, this banquet’. So it’s all just kind of the same thing but this is a little different,” said McShane.
McShane continued to say that if he were to go on to own a restaurant, he would use the craft around Halloween or harvest season.
“The skills are transferable. Say I serve a pumpkin soup – – I might put a little carved pumpkin in the middle as a centre piece or something. It’s just that little extra touch.”
Aside from the pumpkin carving, Wickedly Westboro hosted the final Westboro Farmers’ Market of the season, conducted a scavenger hunt, and offered a number of other family oriented activities like Stilt walkers, face painting, magicians and jugglers.