Start Your Own Great Pumpkin Challenge

Many people have asked us how they can create their own Great Pumpkin Challenge in their town. Here's how we do it, and the things that we've learned along the way. See the Behind the Scenes gallery for pictures of the display.

  • We display the pumpkins on 2x10 planks laid on sections of construction scaffolding. This gives us three or four rows of pumpkins, and then we put an additional row on planks on the ground.
  • We can fit about seven pumpkins on each plank on each section of scaffolding, so about 30 pumpkins per section.
    • Tip: We originally thought that we'd use with milk crates and/or concrete blocks with the planks, but we'd need a LOT of them to do it that way, and they'd be in a stair-step configuration (looking from the side).
  • We use miniature Christmas lights to light the pumpkins, with three or four lights in each one before we go to the next. They are really cheap and we can stuff more or less bulbs into each pumpkin to adjust the brightness.
    • Tip: We've seen people use the larger, old-fashioned outdoor lights with one in each pumpkin but they are more expensive. We tried the newer LED lights, but they were too "cold" looking to us--we like the yellow glow from the real bulbs.
  • Set up some multi-outlet strips at one end of the display and connect several light strings together to light each row. We start with 100 light strings and then use shorter strings near the end so that we don't have extra lights on that row. We found that connecting just the strings together for one row at a time prevented blowing the fuses.
  • Cut an upside down triangular hole (about 2 in. across) in the back of each pumpkin to allow the Christmas lights to enter each one. By using a triangular hole, the lights naturally get caught in the V at the bottom of the hole by the weight of the strings going to the other pumpkins.
    • Tip: We tried drilling circular holes the, but the lights needed to be held in with duct tape and toothpicks. We've found that a drywall saw is the best tool to cut the holes, because it doesn't stick in the pumpkin the way a kitchen knife does.