This Halloween, those who enjoy seeing Jim Miller’s annual pumpkin display are carving the pumpkins for him.
An Oct. 15 industrial accident at Thyssen-Krupp Waupaca means Miller is unable to carve the pumpkins himself.
As a result, pumpkins are being carved this week and dropped off at the Miller’s house on Golke Road in time for a display this weekend.
“It’s just amazing. I guess there will be some pumpkins out here,” he said
What began as an invitation to members of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community – where he, his wife Debbie and their children Stewart, Ben and Ellie attend – is spreading throughout the community.
That invitation was initiated the week of Oct. 17.
First, it went out to the church’s confirmation students before going out to all the children in its religious education program and then being extended to the entire parish during Mass Oct. 23-24.
Betty Manion is the religious education director of St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community and was also among the women attending an Oct. 14 program at the church that featured Miller demonstrating his pumpkin carving techniques.
That night, he carved a pumpkin that shows the profile of Jesus.
The next day, he was injured at work.
Manion learned on Oct. 17 that Miller had been in an accident at work and kept thinking that someone had to do something.
“Waupaca can take that on. We can bring the pumpkins to him, specifically St. Mary Magdalene,” Manion said. “I thought St. Mary Magdalene, because that is what faith communities do.”
On Oct. 19, she talked to Miller’s wife, explaining her idea of having the juniors and seniors who are in the confirmation program carve pumpkins, having them ready for a Halloween pumpkin display.
Manion began with the confirmation students, because “the sacrament of confirmation is about being fully initiated into a faith community,” she said.
The Miller’s sons are both currently in the confirmation program, while their daughter is in middle school.
“It started as a confirmation project,” Manion said. “Then, I thought we could take it even further and put it out to the religious education families. Then, I thought, we could take it out even further to our parish family.”
She said people throughout the community are thinking about the Millers and that this is a way for people in the parish – and now beyond – to bring a little joy to them and the greater Waupaca community.
This week, students in the confirmation program will be carving pumpkins at the Miller’s house on Thursday and Friday. There is no school either day due to teacher convention.
Miller said they will carve the larger pumpkins right there because they would be heavy to transport back and forth. “Ben and Stewart have helped in the past. I will be popping in and out of the garage if they have questions,” he said.
Others from the community will be picking up pumpkins from the Millers and then bringing them back carved.
Miller’s plan had been to be on vacation this week and last week – spending 16 hours a day and as many as 22 hours a day as it got closer to Halloween – carving pumpkins in his garage for his annual display in their front yard.
Every year, he takes two weeks of vacation to do so.
“It’s my passion,” he said, describing it as his “down time, like a retreat.”
Miller became interested in carving pumpkins when a former co-worker of his told him about it.
“That is when I did my first ones – for preschool and for Stewart’s kindergarten class,” he said.
That was 13 years ago, and he has been creating the large pumpkin displays for at least the last 10 years.
As word spreads about this year’s pumpkin display, those who carve pumpkins for it are told to hollow the pumpkins out from the bottom so that lights can be placed inside of them.
Pumpkins can be carved and dropped off on the Miller’s front lawn today, Thursday, Oct. 28 and tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 29.
One Waupaca business – Cost Cutters – is giving those who bring a pumpkin to Cost Cutters this week for the display, $5 off their haircuts. Cost Cutters employees will drop off the pumpkins at the Millers.
Miller said there are many tutorials online about carving pumpkins, allowing people to watch, learn and downland patterns for reasonable prices. Among them are www.zombiepumpkins.com, www.carvingpumpkins.com, www.stoneykins.com and www.jamminpumpkins.com.
Those who talk about what the community is doing say the pumpkins will not be as “nice as Jim’s.”
He says he is overwhelmed by the response he has received from the community and thanks everyone for their well wishes and prayers.
It is Miller’s hope that someday – perhaps when he is no longer to carve pumpkins himself – there is a large community event where everyone would bring a pumpkin.
He sees it being one night where people of all skill levels would come together and carve pumpkins. And then, everyone would be able to walk through and look at them.
As for this year’s pumpkin display, Manion says, “it could be huge but it could be pretty cool.”
Miller does not know how many pumpkins to expect.
“We could have 100 pumpkins, or we could have 25,” he said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m doing much better than I thought I would be.”