For the 16th consecutive year, the McNicholas High School English Department hosted their annual pumpkin-decorating competition on Oct. 31, inviting students from all grade levels to try their skills at modeling pumpkins after characters and scenes from literature. The contest was first created by Librarian Anne Jones, who was looking for an original way to incorporate the spirit of the autumn into the English curriculum.
“I began teaching English at McNick in 1999 and started the contest with my classes,” Jones said. “I love fall and especially Halloween, so I thought it would be a fun way for students to connect to literature. It was exciting to see how creative some of the pumpkins were, and I especially appreciated the pumpkins that were based on characters that we had read about in class together.”
In the years to follow, the pumpkin-decorating contest quickly became a Halloween tradition that grew to encompass the entire student body.
“Because the contest was so popular, we moved the pumpkins to the café so that we had plenty of room to display them and so that all of the student body would have the chance to celebrate Halloween literature-style!” Jones said.
In 1st place this year was senior Ploy Sithisakulrat, who chose to base her creation on Polyphemus, the dim-witted Cyclops from Homer’s Odyssey, the epic poem that is currently being read in senior English classes.
“I chose to decorate my pumpkin based off the Cyclops just because I am impressed by the stratagem that Odysseus used to trick Cyclops so that he and his men can escape from him,” Sithisakulrat explained. “So I decorated the big pumpkin as the Cyclops, who got impaled in the eye by Odysseus, and used little pumpkins as the sheep, whose bellies Odysseus and his men clung to.”
Senior Michelle Hollenkamp, who has taken home the top prize three times in years past, was awarded 2nd place. Hollenkamp used a collection of small painted pumpkins to create a model of the titular character in the children’s classic, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”
Taking home 3rd place was freshman Annie Savage, who styled her pumpkin based on a creature from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.”
First, second, and third places earned cash prizes of $20, $15, and $10, respectively. Entries were on display throughout the day, giving students at both lunches an opportunity to appreciate the effort of their classmates.