How a Lone Pumpkin Won a Halloween Decorating Contest in New Hampshire
When you drive along the Seacoast or any neighborhood in New England during the fall, you could make the case that October has overtaken December in the holiday decoration game.
It makes sense, actually. Not everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, but it feels like nearly every New Englander has a soft spot for All Hallows' Eve.
In many ways, my dad was a real-life Clark Griswold.
While he wasn’t as goofy and often played the straight man to Mom and Me, he was like Chevy Chase’s iconic character in Christmas Vacation in that he loved the holidays, and always had big, ambitious plans to make them even better than last year.
When I was in junior high in the '90s, my hometown had its first-ever Christmas decorating contest. The prize wasn’t too crazy – I want to say something like $100 – but we were in it to win it, baby.
Dad decked the halls and our house every year anyway, and as expected, our house was the winner.
The next fall, it was announced that the town was taking it up a notch: in addition to the Christmas lights contest, there would also be a Halloween decorating contest. I couldn’t wait to see what Dad had in store.
Fresh off The Nightmare Before Christmas and a bunch of R.L. Stine Goosebumps books that blended the two holidays, I knew Dad would hit this out of the park.
Then I saw it. The Lone Pumpkin.
I expected a bunch of skeletons and scarecrows and gravestones. Nope. Just a plastic, light-up pumpkin, sitting aglow in one window. Nothing else.
It must’ve been how Steven Spielberg felt when he heard John Williams play two simple notes for the “Jaws” theme. That’s it??
Then it got even crazier: we won!
It made no sense to me whatsoever. And when I shared my confusion with friends at school, they were confused. “What do you mean??” they said. “Of course you won!”
How did The Lone Pumpkin beat out all these other houses going all-out in the over-the-top '90s? It was almost as if Dad had played a Jedi Mind Trick on everyone in town. Some kind of subliminal signal.
A few weeks later, Dad and I were watching the then-dreadful Celtics get ready to take on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. As always, the lights in Chicago's arena went down as they got ready to announce the Bulls’ starting lineup.
And as always, it all began with this iconic image…
...at which point, Dad winked and, with a twinkle in his eye said, “Remind ya of anything?”