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Master Pumpkin Build Event & Overall Winners

Day two of the Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving Competition at the Columbus Zoo featured the Masters Pumpkin Build event. First I’ll show you the pumpkin sculptures created on day 2. Then, I’ll give the the Overall Winners of the entire competition.

Three time champion Dean Murray had a target on his back. The other competitors really wanted to beat him this year. That was evident in a one of the sculptures. Danny Kissel had a grave stone in his display carved with R.I.P. Dean 2015 on it.

The finished pieces were so excellent. Each of us judges had 4 or 5 favorites. And we all had different favorites. None of us knew who would be the winner or what the placements would be until all the scores were fully counted.

Overview of Rules and Judging Criteria: Each of the 10 Master competitors got to choose one large pumpkin and could incorporate up to 5 other regular sized pumpkins in their final piece. Apparatus for building their pumpkin sculptures were allowed as long at they weren’t visible in the finished piece. All wood, metal or other non pumpkin structures needed to be covered with pumpkin. A 6 hour time limit was given. In the Masters Pumpkin Build event, the judges scores for the category of “structure” would be doubled. Those entries that had a good “build”  got an advantage when the scores were added up. Judging categories included: overall first impression, design, artistic, knife skills, sculptural and a few others.

Winners of the Masters Pumpkin Build are:

1st Place – Danny Kissel – Demon Knight

pumpkin scarecrow by Danny Kissel

In Danny’s lifesize scarecrow display you can see Dean’s name on the headstone. Danny really wanted to unseat 3 time Champion Dean Murray.

You can see Danny on reruns of Season 4 Halloween Wars on Food Network. The episodes are titled “Haunted Farm” and “Don’t Go Into The Forest”.

2nd Place – Dean Murray – Dragon On

pumpkin skull and dragon by Dean Murray

Dean’s skull required unseen structure to keep the skull from collapsing.

Dean with his pumpkin dragon and skull

Dean Murray with his second place winning pumpkin build.

You can see Dean in action on the Food Network’s Halloween Wars. It begins Sat, October 3, at 8:00pm |7:00 central time.

3rd Place Jon Michaels – Catch Me if You Can

pumpkin octopus sea monster by jon Michaels

Jon’s finished octopus complete with suction cups on the tentacles.

Jon Michaels building his pumpkin octopus

During the build you can see here how Jon used structure to add the long tentacles

giant pumpkin squid by Jon

Here is how it looked further along in the build


Here is how it looked on the other side. Each side looked so different, I had to show to all of them.

You can see Jon Michaels in action on the new upcoming , Food Network show, Cake Wars: Christmas. This 6 week program premieres on Food Network on Monday, Nov. 9 at 9|8c.

4th Place – Shannon Gerasimchik – Humpty

Pumpkin humpty Dumpty by Shannon

Shannon created a wall completely covered in pumpkin “stones”, one both sides. Every little bit in between the stone was filled with pumpkin mortar and pebbles. Humpty got carved in the last 45 minutes or so.

5th Place – Titus Arensberg – Barrel of Monkeys

pumpkin barrel of monkeys

Titus Arensberg’s Barrel of Monkeys

barrel of monkeys pumpkin sculpture by Titus

Titus’ pumpkin sculpture is true to the game. Remember that game?

6th Place – Deane Arnold – Troll

troll pumpkin by dean

Dean Arnold’s Troll pumpkin. Don’t you love how he used the pumpkins natural shape when adding the facial expression?

7th Place – Gus Smithhissler – Leap of Faith

pumpkin cave and waterfall by Gus

Gus with his “Leaf of Faith” giant squash carving.

pumpkin cave and waterfall by Gus

Another view showing the waterfall in a cave topped with trees with a rickety bridge crossing the chasm.

8th Place – Mike Brown – Cannibal

cannibal pumpkin by mike

Mike Brown with his cannibal pumpkin

Mikes' cannibal pumpkin

Closer look at Mike’s “Cannibal” All those teeth were individually carved and inserted in the carved sockets.

9th Place – Stephan Koch – Happy Dance

pumpkin frog sculpture by Stephan

Stephan’s ‘Happy Dance” frog.

frog apparatus

I thought that you might like to see the apparatus that Stephan constructed on which to build the pumpkin frog.


A closer look at Stephan’s Happy Dance frog.

frog pumpkin build

The underside of Stephan’s frog.

10th Place – JIM MORGAN – Castle Marine

pumpkin castle by Jim

Jim is the process of building his pumpkin castle

Jim Morgan's Castle Marine

Jim had grander plans for his castle with a larger structure. The fine precision of his build ate up time. Jim made the best of the time he had.

The Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving Competition

The masters scores from day one were added to the masters scores of Day 2. Then the points from the placement in the People’s Choice were added in. After we counted up the scores, it was a super, super close race.

Between 1st and second there was only a only a .5 point difference. That is .02% difference. (Not 2% – not .2% but .o2 %!) Between 4th and 5th place, there was only a .1 point difference. The 6-10th places were not far behind. All of the entries were remarkable in their own ways.

The Masters did a great job.

Here are the winners

Winners Danny and Dean

Danny (right) was thrilled to beat out 3 time champion Dean Murray (left) who took the second prize. It was Danny’s People’s Choice ranking that cause him to edge out Dean and win the title of Jack Hannah Pumpkin Carving Champion.

The sculptures of each carver are listed in order of People’s Choice, Masters 3D day 1, and Masters Build day 2.

1st Place Overall – Danny Kissel – Newville, PA – 216.2 points
Danny won  the title of “Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving Champion”, $1000 cash prize, and a big trophy. His name is engraved on a plaque that remains at the Zoo.
Sculptures: Dinner to Go (Vulture scene), READY TO STRIKE (snake), Demon Knight (scare crow), Danny later nicknamed his scare crow, “The Dean Killer”.

You can see Danny on reruns of Season 4 Halloween Wars on Food Network. The episodes are titled “Haunted Farm” and “Don’t Go Into The Forest”.

2nd Place Overall – Dean Murray – Kiel, WI – 215.7 points
Dean graciously accepted the 2nd prize of $900 and a plaque, as well as a bit of ribbing from Danny.
Sculptures: Do or Do Not (3 Star Wars Characters), I am not Kraken (octopus), Dragon On (small dragon on top of large Skull)

You can see Dean in the new 2015 episodes of Halloween Wars on Food Network. They begin airing on Oct 3rd.

3rd Place Overall – Jon Michaels – Cincinnati,OH – 210.9
Jon won $800 in cash and a plaque. We’ll be seeing Jon on TV in the very near future.
Sculptures: Look at me Leonardo (Ninja Turtle holding Ninja Turtle head), Hide & Seek (Alien looking crab), Catch Me if You Can (octopus with suction cups eating smalled pumpkin)

You can see Jon Michaels in action on the new upcoming , Food Network show, Cake Wars: Christmas. This 6 week program premieres on Food Network on Monday, Nov. 9 at 9|8c.

4th Place Overall – Titus Arensberg – Newark, OH – 207.9
$700 cash prize
The difference separating Titus and Shannon was a mere .1 point.
Sculptures: Godzilla, The Hive, Barrel of Monkeys

5th Place Overall – Shannon Gerasimchik – Hillard, OH – 207.8
$600 cash prize
Under the Sea (Sea Turtle), Extinction (Triceratops), Humpty Dumpty

6th Place Overall – Mike Brown – Ozark, MO
Newcomer Mike Brown took home $500. Now that he knows how the competition works, we’ll see what he comes back with next year.
Sculptures: Dinner Time (pumpkin eating man brains), Captain Jack O’Lantern (pirate face), Cannibal (evil looking pumpkin with individually carved teeth).

The 7th through 10th place competitors won $400 each.

7th Place Overall – Deane Arnold – Renoldsburg, OH
Sculptures: Gorilla, Globlin, Troll

8th Place Overall – Gus Smithhissler – Columbus, OH
Sculptures: Seasons Change (Autumn face on green squash), Changing Colors (chameleons), Leap of Faith (bridge over cave with waterfall)

9th Place Overall – Stephan Koch – Yorktown, IN
Sculptures: Minion Moon Landing, Childhood Memories (baby elephant), Happy Dance (frog)

10th Place Overall – Jim Morgan – Pittsburgh, PA
Sculptures: Elsa  Olaf, Don’t Eat the Fish (shark’s mouth), Castle Marine

I hope you enjoyed the photos from the Masters Division of the Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving Competition. Maybe it’s given you some great ideas for your own pumpkin carvings.

If you want to see some more amazing pumpkin carvings from the 2 day Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving Competition, here are the links to the  People’s Choice division, the Amateur category (coming soon), the Masters Masters 3D challenge, and the Professional category.

Learn to carve like a pro

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