The Pumpkin House

by Ned Hayes for OLY ARTS

Pumpkin carving is an annual tradition at the Halloween season. In Olympia, the act of pumpkin carving has become a refined art form for one family who have become legendary for their devotion to the practice. At the “Pumpkin House” in the South Capitol Neighborhood, the Sheeran family create and display over 120 elaborately carved pumpkins.

The Pumpkin House has been a creative wellspring for pumpkin carvers for over thirty years. Every year up to two thousand trick-or-treaters stop by the Sheeran’s house to gawk at the elaborate pumpkin carvings. Designs on the gourds range from simple faces to elaborate artistic inventions that include relief drawings of celebrities, cartoon characters and famous paintings.

The Sheeran family, composed of Scott, Leslie and son Nicholas Sheeran, are the primary carvers, along with daughter-in-law Rachel Sheeran. Up to ten other artistic carvers will also contribute pumpkin carvings. This year, the number of local carvers has dipped, but they hope for more participants in the future.

“Anyone who wants to carve, we welcome them. None of the pumpkins are simple, and thought and effort goes into each artistic carving,” says Scott Sheeran. “We light them for the Halloween weekend, and it’s a wonderful evening for everyone.”

A well-carved pumpkin can take between five to ten hours to carve, as the artistic designs require precision, artistic clarity and a great deal of patience. This year’s pumpkins will showcase images from popular TV shows and artistically carved images from current events.

“We try to do current events on pumpkins every year,” says Sheeran. “Trump tweeting will be on a pumpkin, but we’ll also have several rockstars and characters from Stranger Things and Game of Thrones. We still have a couple of weeks to carve, so we might get inspired by something else too.”

The Pumpkin House also hosts a donation box: all visitors are encouraged to bring cans for the Olympia Food Bank. On average, between $600-$800 in cash is raised for the Olympia Food Bank during the Halloween season at the Sheeran’s house, along with up to ten cases of non-perishable food. Neighboring houses in the South Capitol district are also raising funds for the Olympia Food Bank.

“Everyone in the neighborhood is really celebrating Halloween more,” says Sheeran. “For our house, this is a big commitment, but when you hear the Oos and the Ahs, it makes it all worth it. That night, it’s quite a treat to see the smiles on the faces of the kids and families.”

(Photos courtesy of local carver Scott Waeschle)

What: The Pumpkin House

How Much: Free. (Donations to Olympia Food Bank)

Where: 219 18th Ave SW Olympia WA
(South Capitol Neighborhood)

When: Oct 30-Nov 2


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