The Hallowbaloo Music and Arts festival is coming up on Saturday, Oct. 25. Will you find me in Chinatown between my festival sets with a mouthful of Twix and handfuls of candy corn? Probably not. When I think of Halloween, I don’t think of candy. But if you find me tolerating all of the candy exchanging hands, I just might be in a moment of Zen, reflecting on pumpkins.

Pumpkins are gourds, like the Hawaiian ipu. They make a popular fall and holiday pie and have savory seeds worth salting and roasting. Many children’s first experience wielding a sharp kitchen knife is while preparing a ghoulish visage out of the Cucurbita pepo; first removing the crown, scooping out the innards, then carefully slicing into the sides to reveal a ghastly physiognomy.

Backlit by a candle, the glowing grin of a jack-o’-lantern has a shrouded origin. While earlier English literature refers to peasant boys making Hoberdy’s Lanterns out of turnips to frighten travelers, the earliest mention of pumpkins being used for this purpose arrived with the headless horseman in Washington Irving’s 1820 classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Certainly intended to conjure images of spooky nature, jack-o’-lanterns have an integral role in providing the eeriness that makes Halloween so exciting. This year, even the sun got involved in the spirit, making a jack-o’-lantern face out of the very flames that light our lands.


To learn more about pumpkins, farming and the harvest spirit, I went with some fellow med school students in H.Y.P.E. (Hawaii Youth Program for Excellence) to take high schoolers from Kakaako’s Next Step Shelter and Waianae’s Paiolu Kaiaulu to Aloun Farms’ annual Pumpkin Festival. The teens had a great time despite the heat, and the 20-somethings chaperones were all impressed by the event’s excitement and fervor. Attendance is highly recommended for families, as there are rides, inflated dragons and lots of free games and giveaways for keiki. It also would make a great afternoon getaway date, with country music, a mechanical bull and a hayride to show that special someone your playful side. You are free to roam the rows and pick your own pumpkin or corn for a reasonable price; just beware of the scarecrow guarding the fields. It is one of the scariest I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve seen at least four.

Seeing the orange blobs sprouting from the earth gave me insight into the feeling of fall. In urban Honolulu, we don’t experience the seasons the same way as in other states. However, the Pumpkin Festival allows us to see some of the color changes associated with the season and get our hands dirty (figuratively — it’s actually not a messy experience) by hitting the fields and harvesting for ourselves. You can feel the abundance of the fields and clear some of the abundance out of your closet. Free entry is provided if you come with two garbage-size bag donations of clothing, bed and bath items or accessories. Donations go to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

This is the last weekend (Oct. 25-26) for the Pumpkin Festival. It runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., so there’s ample time to hit the hay before you hit the streets this pre-Halloween weekend.