Anne McDonough, Courtesy of Roger Williams Park Zoo
Forget two triangles and a crooked smile. The most memorable of the 5,000-plus illuminated pumpkins at Rhode Island's Roger Williams Park Zoo Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular feature ethereal hand-carved portraits (the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis) and scenes from movie classics (like The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music). The mastermind behind the multimedia displays is John Reckner, founder of Passion for Pumpkins, who shares his tips for how to step up your carving game.
1. Pick the right size.
"Bigger pumpkins just have a presence," Reckner says. Look for varieties like Prizewinners, which have a reddish hue, and Big Max, which give off a more impressive glow.
2. It's all about the preparation.
Use a kitchen spoon to scoop out pulp and seeds. Scraping the shell will help the pumpkin last longer and let more light shine through.
3. Keep it simple.
You don't need fancy tools to carve something special: Reckner's standby is a plain old paring knife.
4. Make it last.
To give your pumpkin a longer life, spray it with a diluted bleach solution or place it near a fan to prevent decay and keep pesky bugs away.