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It's jack-o'-lantern time again

For the 34th year, Habedank is carving jack-o'-lanterns to display in front of his home on Grandview Avenue during the Halloween season. He'll show up to 125 from Oct. 29 through Nov. 3. Ruth Nerhaugen/Republican Eagle

Gutting pumpkins and jabbing them a thousand times or so with a pick may not sound like fun.

But to volunteers who provide essential support to Red Wing's master pumpkin carver, Bill Habedank, the rewards are plentiful.

"I like to see the people, their expressions" as they stop and admire the glowing jack-o'-lanterns, said Peter Jacobs, a neighbor who has been scooping and "patterning" for a few years now.

"It's fun," he said. "We do everything but the carving."

A steady stream of people all ages comes to Bill and Judy Habedank's home at 1913 Grandview Ave. during Halloween season. This year -- his 34th -- about 125 jack-o'-lanterns will be lit each night from Oct. 29 through Nov. 3.

It wouldn't be possible without a corps of volunteers, Bill Habedank said. They start months ahead by assisting in the pumpkin field. Jacobs' son, Peter "Bud" Jacobs, did some of the weeding.

They got a bumper crop on land in the Vasa area, donated by Terry and LaVonne Carlson, Habedank said -- enough to make his goal of 125 jack-o'-lanterns this year possible.

Carving began Oct. 19; but again, work began long before that date.

Habedank comes up with images, first, and uses a computer software program to blow up the images and print them out.

In addition to selecting an image, he also picks the pumpkin into which he will carve each design.

"He sees the people of the things" in the pumpkins, Jacobs explained.

After the pumpkins have been emptied and selected, each gets a number that corresponds with an image. The image is pinned to the pumpkin.

That's where the patterning helpers come in. They poke holes through the paper image into the pumpkin, tracing the design. They then rub rags dipped in dye over the holes, so Habedank can see to carve the shapes.

He's trying to make the jack-o'-lantern display more a community event, Habedank said. In addition to the scoopers and patterning helpers, he also wants to train carvers.

As always, the collection will include a traditional assortment of Halloween figures, such as sorcerers and witches, plus some spiritual scenes, reproductions of famous artwork and more.

"A pumpkin for everybody" is his goal.

Habedank plans only one politician this year -- a tribute to the late Ted Kennedy. His local images will include Chief Red Wing.

"I like to surprise people," he noted. They'll have to come by to find out what else he has created with his temporary pumpkin art.

Habedank encouraged people to come on nights other than Oct. 31, which is always "really busy. Traffic is heavy," he said, reminding people to watch out for kids trick-or-treating.

There is no charge, but as always, people are encouraged to bring donations for the local food shelf, the pet food shelf and/or the Goodhue County Red Cross.