Roll the excitement of Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve into one, and you might come close to the Bardeen family’s enthusiasm for Halloween. Paul Bardeen invented the original pumpkin-carving kit in 1943, and his descendants still run Grampa Bardeen’s, the innovator’s Denver company, nearly eight decades later. So even though the pandemic seems hell-bent on ruining trick-or-treating, canceling Halloween was never an option. Instead, Tara Bardeen, Paul’s granddaughter and the business’ marketing manager, suggests organizing a neighborhood pumpkin walk to preserve the door-to-door ritual and sense of community it creates. Here, her instructions for pulling off a Halloween miracle on your own block.

Paul Bardeen
Paul Bardeen. Photo courtesy of Grandpa Bardeen’s

Step 1: To encourage participation, set a time before October 31 for a neighborhood carving party via Zoom. Order your kit (for $50, you get 18 sturdy tools and 16 patterns) from Grandpa Bardeen’s.

Step 2: Ensure your work of art lasts: Buy thick-stemmed, deep-orange pumpkins, which hold up longer than yellower varieties. Oh, and illuminate your design with an LED tea light. They’re cooler in temperature than other bulbs, helping your pumpkin stay fresh.

Step 3: Turn the gourd upside down and cut a hand-sized opening around the belly-button-like blossom end. Use one of the kit’s two scoops to scrape the inside wall until the “face” area you want to carve is manageable (about an inch thick).

Pumpkin Carving Tools
Photo courtesy of Sarah Boyum

Step 4: Tape a paper pattern (find more printable options on the website) to your gourd, leaving at least two inches between the diagram’s edges and the top and bottom of the pumpkin. Then, use one of the steel-tipped poker tools in the kit to punch holes along each design element, remove the pattern, and connect the dots as you carve with a saw from the kit.

Step 5: Have all your neighbors display their pumpkins so families can stroll and admire the views while maintaining six feet of space (costumes and masks recommended). Set up an online poll via a service like Doodle, where residents can vote for their favorites: “Nothing brings a block together,” Bardeen says, “like a bit of friendly competition.”

Bonus: After putting all that work into your jack-o-lantern, it would be a shame if it got moldy before Halloween—or worse, a squirrel turned it into a meal. To preserve your pumpkin, spritz the carved area with a solution of one part bleach and two parts water. Then, place plastic wrap over the carved area (or put the entire pumpkin in a plastic grocery bag), and store it in a cool, dry area when it’s not being displayed. When your masterpiece is on the porch, spritz the outside with the same bleach-water mix to repel hungry scavengers.

Bardeen Family Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe:
  • Remove the seeds by hand.
  • Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease the foil with butter.
  • Spread out the seeds (don’t wash them) in an even layer on the foil and season with salt. (John Bardeen, Paul’s son, recommends Lowry’s Seasoned Salt; for a sweeter version, try cinnamon and brown sugar).
  • Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven.
  • Using a spatula, shift the seeds to one side of the pan, and apply butter to the foil. Then, move the seeds to the other side of the pan and add butter to the unbuttered side.
  • Bake for another 15-20 minutes until they are a golden brown, checking them often to prevent burning.

This article was originally published in 5280 October 2020.
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.