A decidedly spooky atmosphere will descend upon Oak Bay Village in the days leading up to Halloween, but it’s all in good fun.
The spirit of the holiday has possessed the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association, and it’s once again preparing to host Canada’s largest display of Pumpkin Art, a display that has received rave reviews in Toronto, New York and a host of locations across Vancouver Island.
Pumpkin Art is the creation of local artist and events guru, John Vickers. He’s the man behind the Victoria Buskers Festival and the Chalk Art Festival and he first created the pumpkin art display to be an event that would be consistent with his philosophy of providing free, family friendly, public festivals and events to the people of Greater Victoria.
The pumpkin display has been a 12-year labour of love for Vickers who has intricately carved upwards of 500 pumpkins (actually very authentic looking polyurethane pumpkin moulds), to represent a number of themes ranging from the humorous to the macabre.
“I like to create themed groupings of the pumpkins,” said Vickers. “It’s great when people recognize something nostalgic – something that takes them back to another time. They’ll point them out and it’ll evoke other memories and conversations.”
Vickers added new pumpkins to his display every year to replace those which have been damaged or become dated. This year he’s added pumpkins that feature the faces of the mayor and municipal councillors of Oak Bay.
“They’re pretty good likenesses,” said Vickers. “And it’s all pretty light hearted, anyway.”
While the display first started on some front lawns in Victoria’s Fairfield neighbourhood in 1998, it soon outgrew that location and was housed at Government House for several years. It has moved a few times since then, but found a long-term home in Oak Bay in 2011.
“We’re thrilled to have Pumpkin Art back in Oak Bay,” said Heather Leary, the project manager of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association.
Leary estimated upward of 2,000 people toured the display last year and is confident that the number will be much higher now that people are aware of the display’s new location.
The pumpkins will be on display on the back lawn of the Oak Bay Municipal Hall, 2167 Oak Bay Ave., between Oct. 26 and Halloween night on Oct. 31. The display is free of charge, but donations will be accepted for Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.
Still, the Pumpkin Art display is just part of what’s planned for Halloween by the business improvement association.
During that same week, business owners in the village will be trying their hand at carving pumpkins to amaze, frighten or inspire passersby. They’ll be placing their creations in their shop windows and inviting folks to vote on the best pumpkin.
“The merchants will have posters in their windows with QR-codes so that people will be able to use their smart phones to vote for their favourite creations,” Leary said.
As an added bonus, everyone who casts a vote in the pumpkin contest will be entered to win a prize package of gift certificates and merchandise.
Of course, Halloween is all about the children, so on Oct. 31, between 2 and 5 p.m., children will be invited to trick-or-treat among the shops on Oak Bay Avenue. Merchants will be handing out treats and admiring the costumes of their scary visitors.
“It’s a great way for youngsters to participate in Halloween. … to have a safe and inviting Halloween experience,” said Leary.