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Pumpkin Carving Competition Seeks Experts and Amateurs – $7900 in Cash Prizes

The Jack Hanna Pumpkin Competition returns to the Columbus Zoo in Ohio. It takes place on September 26 and 27, 2015. The annual event brings amateur, professional and master carvers together to create spectacular pumpkin carvings. The competition is currently accepting applications for the amateur and professional levels.

gorilla carved by Gabriel Vinas at a previous Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving competition

Realistic looking gorilla carved by master carver Gabriel Vinas at a previous Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving competition at the Columbus Zoo.

I’m excited to announce that I will be serving as a judge for the pumpkin carving competition this year.

$7900 in Prizes Will be Awarded

If you love carving pumpkins, this is a great opportunity to win some money and mingle with fellow carvers. Prize money will be given to winners of several rounds and categories. $7900 in total. Even if you don’t win one of the many prizes, you’ll learn a lot just by being surrounded by other talented carvers. You will likely find some new inspiration for your carvings.

Anyone can apply for the amateur and professional categories. The Masters Invitational Competition is a pre-selected, group of ten master carvers. Here is the line up of this year’s chosen master carvers:
Dean Murray, Jess Parish, Titus Arensberg, Jon Michaels, Stephan Koch, Jim Morgan, Gus Smithhissler, Shannon Gerasimchik, Danny Kissel and Deane Arnold. All of these men are talented pumpkin carvers who have won multiple awards for their carvings skills. You may have seen Dean Murray in Food Network’s Halloween Wars. Quite a few of these master competitors are also talented ice and sand sculptors.


Creative 3D pumpkin carving by master carver Dean Murray at the Zoo competition in 2013

Master carvers will compete and be scored in three events: people’s choice, 3D carving and 300 pound pumpkin build.

Professional carvers will compete in two competitions: people’s choice and 3D carving.


Pumpkin carving into a frog on a lily pad by master carver Gus Smithhissler

Although both masters and professionals compete in a 3D carving competition, the similarities end there. The masters will carve realistic 3D sculptures from 300 pound pumpkins. The professionals will carve their 3D sculptures from pumpkins that weigh less than 150 pounds.

For the people’s choice competition, both master and professional carvers will pre-carve at least one pumpkin. They will then have an hour to set up their display once they arrive at the venue.

Jon Michaels entry from the 2013 pumpkin carving competition.

Master carver Jon Michaels carved this pumpkin skull from the 2013 pumpkin carving competition.

The final event for the master competition, which takes place on Sunday, is the 300 pound pumpkin build. Using one 300 pound pumpkin and five pumpkins weighing less than 50 pounds each, master carvers will create a pumpkin carving display.

Amateur Pumpkin Carvers

While amateur carvers only compete on Sunday, they are encouraged to attend the event on Saturday to watch the master and professional competitions.

Amateurs will compete in a 3D pumpkin carving competition using two pumpkins under 150 pounds.

For non-master carvers who are planning to travel to Columbus to compete, the zoo is offering a free hotel room during the competition. Applications will be accepted for the amateur and professional pumpkin carving competitions until all the hotel rooms are filled. There is no entry fee for this competition.

Pumpkin Carving Competition – Prize Categories, Details, and Rules

Prize values vary depending on the level of competition. Masters can win up to $1,000, professionals up to $400 and amateurs up to $125. The top four finishers in the professional and amateur categories will win a monetary prize. The top five master and professional carving’s chosen by the people’s choice will also win a $100 prize. You will find the prize listings along with the details and rules in the application. You can download the competition application here.

If you want to simply attend the Jack Hanna Pumpkin Carving Competition at the Columbus Zoo, you can get your tickets here.

Learn to carve like a pro

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