North York’s Shoreham Walkway is a diverse neighbourhood where Halloween just isn’t a “thing.” It’s a diverse community where everyone respects everyone else’s holidays. Some celebrate Dwali, others Easter, but very few celebrate Halloween. Clara Stewart Robertson, from Toronto’s Green Change, a Jane/Finch Centre satellite space that connects people to places and nature, brought a Pumpkin Parade to her neighbourhood. And in her neighbourhood Pumpkin Parades thrived, even without Halloween.
Many of the newcomers in North York neighbourhood where Stewart Robertson works aren’t really “into” Halloween. The tradition of spending discretionary income on store bought costumes and buying candy, not to mention the holiday’s associations with witchcraft, get in the way of it really taking off in the low income community.
But, regardless of people’s feelings about Halloween, Stewart Robertson knew that pumpkin carving would be irresistible to kids in the neighbourhood, and could be used as a good tactic to lure parents into the park to build a relationship to their green space.
Green Change connected to their local Boys and Girls Club and organized a pumpkin carving party in the park where over 100 pumpkins were carved in a single night. Afterwards, parents were invited to walk around and soak up the creativity. Here’s how they made it happen for a community that was less than familiar with Halloween traditions:
All of the pumpkins for the community carving session were donated by a local farm. The donation helped offset the costs and having them delivered directly to the park made transportation a non-issue. Many people in the neighbourhood rely on public transit and walking to get around. This makes purchasing a pumpkin highly impractical. “Can you imagine walking home from the grocery store with a pumpkin?” asks Stewart Robertson. Good point.
Animate the space:
In addition to having a very busy pumpkin carving station where kids could work on their pumpkin carving, the organizers set up two other game stations to keep kids busy while they excitedly waited for their turn to carve. Also, they served up hot chocolate and pizza to keep people’s spirits up.
“The kids particularly love getting messy because it’s not something they get to do often,” says Stewart Robertson, who notes that many of the kids showed up in their school uniforms. Of course, some kids cower at the idea of sticking their hands inside a dank, messy pumpkin the first time, but if you put kids in pairs, not everyone needs to go elbow deep in the pumpkin guts.
Frame it within the Harvest:
Even if Halloween isn’t popular in your community, there are often harvest festivals that happen in the fall when other key goodies like tomatoes and corn are at their peak. Don’t worry about skipping the whole Halloween “spooky” tradition and going straight to the joyful pumpkins. After all, any holiday can be a reason to celebrate.