The Master Carver Vs. The 1,800-Pound Pumpkin

Many of you may be deep into last-minute pumpkin carving at the moment. So is Scott Cully, except his subject weighs a bit over 1,800 pounds. Host Scott Simon talks to Cully, who will try to break his own world record this weekend at the New York Botanical Garden.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Many of you might be deep into last-minute pumpkin carving at this very moment. So is Scott Cully, except his subject weighs a bit over 1,800 pounds. Mr. Cully, who is at the New York Botanical Garden, is trying to break his own Guinness World Record for pumpkin carving.

Where do you get a pumpkin like that?

Mr. SCOTT CULLY (Master Pumpkin Carver): This pumpkin was grown in Richmond, Wisconsin, and it was the champion pumpkin this year. And the grower brought it out here to the New York Botanical Garden, and it's now on display here.

SIMON: And how are you going to alter the pumpkin to win this contest?

Mr. CULLY: I am altering this pumpkin by carving three Jack O'Lantern faces into it. Now, Scott, imagine this pumpkin - it's probably, oh, 4 feet tall, maybe 5 feet across; 3 and a half, 4 feet thick. So there's plenty of space on it to carve three Jack O'Lantern faces into it.

And, you know, I've begun to sketch it out. I began to do some rough carving here at the garden. And by the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, this Jack O'Lantern will have fully come to life.

SIMON: And what kind of tools do you use?

Mr. CULLY: Most of the tools that I use, Scott, are simple kitchen tools. I use a 12-inch filleting knife. I have a 5-inch knife. And the one that I use the most is a 3-inch paring knife.

SIMON: Mr. Cully, how did you become a master pumpkin carver?

Mr. CULLY: I became a pumpkin carver in autumn of 1988, and my wife and I had a 400-pound pumpkin at the time, as I recall - a little over 400 pounds. We had some knives, and we had two bottles of very high-quality, New England hard cider.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CULLY: That supplied the inspiration. You know, within a couple of hours, there was a very rudimentary, three-dimensional carving. And I just search for the biggest pumpkins in the world, and try to bring them to life.

SIMON: And what are some of your favorite designs?

Mr. CULLY: All of my designs are really a variation on a Jack O'Lantern theme. And most of my pumpkin carvings have a mouth big enough that a small kid could put their head into. And most of them have big, ghoulish teeth, and this one is going to have an ax carved right into the side of the skull.

SIMON: And I have to ask you before we close, do you make a pie out of all that pumpkin stuff?

Mr. CULLY: You know, Scott, I absolutely hate pumpkin pie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CULLY: Despise it. After Halloween, I dont want to have anything to do with pumpkins. Just Say No to Pumpkin Pie is my motto.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, Mr. Cully, thank so much, and Happy Halloween.

Mr. CULLY: Happy Halloween to you, too, sir.

SIMON: Scott Cully, extraordinary pumpkin sculptor, speaking from the New York Botanical Garden.

Good-bye.

Mr. CULLY: Bye-bye.

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