- Holidays and Celebrations
Tom Nardone and his Extreme Pumpkins
There's one neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Detroit about to get terrorized by Tom Nardone. It's nothing to be afraid of or should the neighbors be afraid? Actually, they should be very afraid.
He's the author of the book, Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors available at your favorite bookstore by Penguin books.
Nardone started his pumpkin carving after buying his first house and as a single guy he liked to scare the kids that came through the neighborhood on Halloween. "I had bought all this candy and figured the more kids I frightened away the more candy I would get to eat in the end."
When he started to carve the pumpkins he sat down and thought what was really scary. He didn't like the idea of the "cartoony ghosts" since they weren't really scary, but wanted something which actually frightened people. One of the pumpkins he carved was of the movie character Carrie, complete with pulsating blood and tiara.
"The whole reason I started carving the pumpkins was the Martha Stewart type and painted face pumpkins like your mom had were so popular and I was like, 'it's so ridiculous.' It really angered me that people weren't carving pumpkins anymore. All they were doing was slapping some water based paint on them and calling it a jack-o-lantern. I was so mad that I did the exact opposite. Don't you think painting a face on them was destroying the tradition of pumpkin carving? I do."
Nardone admits to being a big fan of Halloween and was excited when he was approached about doing a book of pumpkin carving.
With a dry wit about him (and a few silly websites to his credit) he said this was the second one in which he was approached for doing a book. "The first website technically wasn't feasible; it just wasn't possible to get all the photography together, whereas for this (book) the photos on the website were taken a few years ago and they're not really high resolution photos.
"We couldn't use those for the book but it's not to hard to re-carve pumpkins, so in doing the book I re-carved all of the pumpkins and had professional photographers. I'm not a natural born writer, just a regular guy, so late at night I'd write the pieces. It was really exciting that I had that opportunity to do the book."
Is Nardone like a kid in the candy store when he goes to a pumpkin patch? Since its more business now he'll get excited if he can get a lift with the farmer, but normally goes to Eastern Market with a list for his goods.
The pumpkin aficionado says the best time to get pumpkins is in early October since you have the best choice. He says once you get past mid to late September they're just lying around in the patch since they're not really getting any nourishment from the stem. If you do get them early you should keep them outdoors since they'll last a lot longer rather than inside your home or garage.
However, if you don't have someplace to keep them outdoors he suggests getting them about three to four days before you plan on carving them on Halloween.
When it comes to size, Nardone likes pumpkins twice as large as a human head if you're going to carve a face, "this way you can exaggerate all the expressions. The mouth can be much bigger than a mouth and the eyes can be bigger, etc." He also noted that pie pumpkins (the smaller ones) are a lot harder to carve since the flesh is much thicker and they're bred for making pies.
And when it comes to lighting your pumpkin Nardone stays away from candles and goes for the good old fashioned road flare. He says you can see it burning a mile away.
"I embrace my inner laziness," Nardone says when it came to re-carving the pumpkins for the book. "It took about 20 hours to carve the pumpkins in the book and the designs in it are really quite simple. They take very little time to carve. Some of them can be carved in about five to ten minutes."
Pumpkins aren't the only type of fruit you can carve. He's carved cantaloupes, bell peppers and does at least one watermelon a year.
For the inept at carving what should you start practicing on?
Nardone starts to laugh and says you should have a montage going on with a sweatband around your head and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" playing in the background as you carve up a watermelon for your Halloween training (preferably a seedless).
Even though the now married Nardone has high hopes that his three kids will follow in his footsteps when they get older. While his neighbors don't know what's up his sleeve he can guarantee they'll be in for quite a show.
From October 1 he'll start throwing pumpkins on his lawn and will have a new carving every weekend. Once they rot he'll do a new carving which will definitely raise an eyebrow with his neighbors.
"Each year Halloween gets bigger and bigger for us. We don't have a haunted house in the garage, well not yet, but I literally scare the crap out of the kids when they come up to the house. If you look on the website there's a section called candy traps. I disguise myself as a trash barrel and it's almost like a Transformers outfit. It looks like a trash barrel and I crouch down and after the kids get their candy and step off the porch I jump out at them. They literally fall on their butts but so far I haven't seen anyone piss their pants....yet."
Everyone basically has the same reaction (including the adults). They're all scared but then they stand about 50 feet away waiting for the next kids to get scared. The only thing fun about getting scared is to watch someone else get frightened. It's fun. It makes for good times."
His website www.extremepumpkins.com is a very popular site when it comes to carving and Halloween and in the days before Halloween the site can see hits of up to one million a day "which is amazing to me. That's more than the population of the City of Detroit."
If you watch talk shows, he usually becomes a fixture on various ones in the days prior to Halloween so be sure to check your local listings.
He also holds a pumpkin carving contest and winners will be announced on the website.
God help his neighbors.