Thousands of pumpkins, real and fake, to illuminate Fairmount Park

The Glow Jack O’Lantern Experience is coming to Fairmount Park for the first time.

If you love Linvilla’s Pumpkinland, if you crave Chadds Ford’s Great Pumpkin Carve, you’re going to want to get a load of The Glow. The giant jack-o'-lantern display is coming to West Fairmount Park starting Friday night, and it promises to up the ante for the region’s gourd shindigs, right in the city.

Thursday through Sunday evenings through Oct. 29, more than 5,000 real and faux pumpkin constructions will light up a third-of-a-mile, fenced-in trail off States Drive between the Please Touch Museum and the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

The Glow will have pumpkins stacked into 18-foot-tall dinosaurs; carved into skeletons on motorcycles; piled into archways; sculpted into musical instruments; and fashioned into Philadelphia icons such as the Mummers, the Liberty Bell, Benjamin Franklin, and street art. There will be themed background music and food trucks. Timed tickets are available by presale only; prices start at $16.

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An artist carves a pumpkin at The Glow: A Jack O’Lantern Experience.

Townsquare, a Greenwich, Ct.-based media, entertainment, and digital marketing company, is behind the event. Townsquare — which owns 309 radio stations; the Taste of Country Music Festival in Hunter, N.Y.; the traveling Insane Inflatable 5K; North American Midway Entertainment; and the gossip site — is putting on two other simultaneous The Glows, in Reston, Va., and Nashville, Tenn.

Event executive producer Debbi Katz is the New York-based brain behind the new-to-Philly show. She likened The Glow to the Chinese Lantern Festival at Franklin Square and described the event as “a jack-o'-lantern wonderland.” She and her team have worked on previous such pop-ups across the country, including ones with ice. Last year, Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, N.J., hosted a Glow.

“We love Halloween, and we love the idea of family-friendly events,” she said. “This is an amazing alternative or addition to the typical scary haunted house. The show has something kids as young as 2 or 3 could love, and something grandparents can enjoy — something for everyone.”

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A dinosaur is part of The Glow: A Jack O’Lantern Experience.

A team of 25 artists worked to create the scenes, Katz said. Most of the jack-o'-lanterns are made of molded foam — better to display them longer, and maybe even keep them for next year, she said. Plus, “it would be pretty scary to have real pumpkins hanging from trees above your head.”

Fifteen more professional carvers return to West Fairmount each weekend to cut new patterns out of locally grown gourds. Each night, a “live carver” will demonstrate pumpkin-cutting magic talents for ticket holders.

Every night, a select number of just-carved pumpkins will be for sale in the show’s “pumpkin patch” for about $25 each. (Not a bad price, when you consider what it would take to DIY.)

Early this Sunday, the trail will become sensory-friendly, with more lights, lower music, and fewer people. The featured artist will be Joseph Gans, an artist who will talk to guests about his autism. Some proceeds from that night’s sales will go to Autism Speaks.

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A dragon at The Glow.

Months ago, Katz and some colleagues came to Philadelphia to scout sites for their show. “We really spent a lot of time,” she said. “We thought Philadelphia would be a great space, with the whole culture there of art, and the whole Philadelphia vibe.” West Fairmount Park stood out for its beauty, ample parking, and proximity to both the city and suburbs.

Like the Chinese Lantern Festival, the Glow will be fully fenced in, in order to “keep our pumpkins safe, and keep the public safe. We do have wires and such to light up these jack-o'-lanterns,” Katz said.

The trail, she added, is paved and accessible to strollers, walkers, and wheelchairs. The path to get to the trail, the “preshow area,” however, is not fully paved. People using wheelchairs and other wheeled devices might find it “challenging,” she said, to get down to the trail area without assistance.

“Our goal is to make a family tradition that we can continue to do with the folks in Philadelphia,” she said.

The Glow

Thursday-Sunday through Oct. 29, rain or shine
States Drive
$16-$25 (ages 3-12, $10 & $16)