Spooky-good Fun

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo

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The acclaimed Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular, presented by Citizens Bank, has returned to Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence with shows running nightly from through November 1st. This highly anticipated annual fall tradition features a breathtaking display of 5000 illuminated jack-o-lanterns, with over 125 of them artistically carved and displayed in scenes to play out the annual theme.

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Visitors have called it “autumnal bliss!” and “a fabulous night of gorgeous artistry.” The show has been selected by the U.S. Library of Congress as a national “local legacy,” and was featured in Martha Stewart Living, on the Travel Channel, The Today Show, The Early Show, USA Today and CNN. The Associated Press hailed the show as “extraordinary”, abc.com named it one of the top 11 “Spookiest Destinations” and the American Bus Association Spectacular dubbed the Spectacular a “2013 top 100 event”.

Situated on the Zoo’s picturesque wetlands trail, the event has won praise from across the nation for its amazing artistry and appeal as a unique, family-friendly autumn destination. Over 100,000 people have come in each of the past five years to enjoy the nighttime show, and last year’s Spectacular saw the second highest attendance of over 125,000 visitors.

“With thousands of awe-inspiring pumpkins illuminating the night, this iconic fall event is fun for people of all ages and is not to be missed,” said Barbara Cottam, RI Market Executive for Citizens Bank. “Citizens Bank is delighted once again to be the presenting sponsor of this favorite fall attraction.”

…hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns on the ground and high up in the trees…

The 2015 presentation, titled “The People’s Choice,” features subjects the public especially loved throughout the past 27 years of shows — scenes filled with intricate pumpkin art will recall the “Phantom of the Opera,” the Golden Age of Hollywood, and other cultural and historic highlights, like Charles Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos Islands complete with “active” volcanoes and the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music”.

New this year, the addition of light and image projections enhance the scenery along the trail. Show musical standards have returned, such as childhood favorites and Halloween scenes, as has the show’s dazzling grand finale, the Laughing Tree. There, hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns on the ground and high up in the trees surround carved giants (well over 1,000 pounds) arrayed in the forefront that are enhanced with spooky fog and the iconic musical theme punctuated by a catchy beat and laughter.

Crews from Passion for Pumpkins, the show creators, spent several weeks leading up to the event creating the magical display. Then, they are working nearly around the clock throughout the 32-night run to keep the show fresh for visitors. The Spectacular was founded many years ago by John Reckner, an Oxford, Mass. resident who recently retired from his postal carrier career. Inspired by a Vermont farm he had seen lined with glowing jack-o-lanterns, Reckner organized the first Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular in Oxford in 1988. The jack-o-lanterns featured in this first event were carved by local residents and displayed for only one evening on a hillside behind a local school. About 300 spectators attended. Today, Mr. Reckner, his family, and their crew of jack-o-lantern artists now known as Passion for Pumpkins, continue to bring the Spectacular to life.

2015 Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular details: The Show will run rain or shine through November 1st with admission from 6pm to 10pm, with the trail closing at 11pm. The event will be extended one hour on Saturdays.

The Spectacular is an important fundraiser for Roger Williams Park Zoo. Proceeds from the event will help to support the Zoo’s animal care, environmental education and conservation efforts both locally and around the globe, as well as Zoo improvements. Roger Williams Park Zoo, one of the oldest in the nation, is Rhode Island’s number one outdoor family and tourist attraction and is also a leader in conservation efforts undertaken by a zoo of its size. The Zoo has received numerous awards for environmental education, and conservation work done locally and around the world, caring for species that without human intervention would face certain extinction. Roger Williams Park Zoo is supported and managed by the Rhode Island Zoological Society and is owned by the City of Providence.

Tickets prices on Monday – Thursday are $14 adults, $12 seniors (62+) and $11 for children ages 3 – 12; and from Friday – Sunday tickets are $16 adults, $14 seniors and $13 children ages 3 – 12; children two and under are admitted for free. Groups of 25 or more may call (401) 467-0150 for advance reservations and group rates.

New this year, guests will be able to purchase tickets for the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular online at rwpzoo.org/jols-tickets. Those who use this new feature will be directed by signs in the parking lot to enter the Zoo through Gate 2, which is to the right of the main admissions plaza. This separate entrance will allow online ticket holders to skip the ticket purchase line, and head directly to the pumpkin trail line.

Tickets for the Weekend Harvest Buffet and group tickets must still be purchased at the Zoo. The popular Weekend Harvest Buffet will be available Friday – Sunday nights at $25 for adults and $13 for children ages 3 – 12. Meal tickets will be purchased in addition to Spectacular admission tickets and will include express entry to the pumpkin trail. Buffet tickets will be sold at Gate 2 (follow signs in the parking lot) as patrons arrive for the show.

Roger Williams Park Zoo is located in Providence, RI at exit 16 off Interstate I-95 north and exit 17 off I-95 south, about 1 hour from Boston and 90 minutes from Hartford. For more information about the Spectacular, visit the Zoo’s website, call (401) 785-3510, or write to gsales@rwpzoo.org.

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