A group of lit jackolantern pumpkins at night in sorauren park

Photograph by tvirbivkis / iStock

Pumpkin parades keep the Halloween spirit going

These popular community get-togethers are a fun way to meet your neighbours and browse local works of art

Ah, the humble jack-o’-lantern. This carefully crafted labour of love is also (quite often) a work of art, but it tends to get overlooked by trick-or-treaters in the hustle to hit as many houses as possible. Then the candy runs out, the candles are snuffed and the Halloween fun is over.

But Colleen Kennedy didn’t want the fun to end. In 2004, she had an idea that would keep the communal spirit of Halloween going. Rather than plopping their pumpkins straight into the compost, Kennedy thought, her Sorauren Park neighbours should haul their jack-o’-lanterns out for one last post-Halloween hurrah.

If there were an autumnal version of “stop and smell the roses,” pumpkin parades would be it. Children, families and unsuspecting passersby can’t help but slow down at the sight of dozens (sometimes hundreds) of lit-up jack-o-lanterns lining city streets.

“Sometimes after learning about a new idea or event, you wonder, ‘Why hasn’t it always been like this?’” says Joël Campbell, chair of the volunteer-run Friends of Sorauren Park group. “That’s what it’s like for the pumpkin parade—and why it has become so popular. It’s a chance for the community to celebrate together, to show off their artistic skills and to express themselves and their interests. I think any community that doesn’t already have a pumpkin parade should start one.”

The tradition has, in fact, grown far beyond Kennedy’s west-end neighbourhood. From Scarborough to Etobicoke, Toronto reported 47 parades in 2017. The concept has also caught on in other Canadian cities, including Montreal and Ottawa, and even our stateside neighbours in New York have started adopting their own versions, which they sometimes call “pumpkin pageants.”

One of Campbell’s favourite aspects of the parade is seeing how his neighbourhood’s pumpkin art reflects the current climate. “I love seeing all the pumpkins that are carved as a comment on current events, pop culture and politics,” he says. ”Last year we had a few ‘Donald Trumpkins’ and a beautiful Gord Downie pumpkin. Who knows what we’ll see this year?”

A group of lit jackolantern pumpkins at night in sorauren park

If your ‘hood has yet to jump on the pumpkin-parade bandwagon, it’s a great opportunity to explore a whole new community. Here’s a list of places in the GTA that usually host pumpkin parades. All events take place on November 1 and usually begin around sundown.

• Amos Waites Park (Mimico)
• Bartlett Parkette
• Carlton Park
• Centennial Park
• Dallington Pollinators Community Garden
• Dentonia Park
• Dovercourt Park
• Earlscourt Park
• East Lynn Park
• East York Civic Centre
• Eglinton Park
• Elm Park
• Felstead Park
• Friends of Moncur Park
• Glebe Manor Square East
• Gledhill Park
• Harbord Village
• Kew Gardens
• Lambton Kingsway Park
• Masaryk Park
• McCormick Park
• Norwood Park
• Oakridge Park
• Park Lawn Park
• Phin Park
• Rennie Park
• Riverdale Park West
• Sandown Park
• Sorauren Park
• Stephenson Park
• Terraview Park
• Trinity Bellwoods Park
• Withrow Park
• Wychwood Barns Park

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