RED WING — It’s Halloween and that means families from around the area will grab a blade and use their artistic talents to carve up hundreds of pumpkins. For most families, the carving stops after a handful of pumpkins. For Red Wing’s master carver Bill Habedank, the carving doesn’t stop until he nears the century mark.
Habedank’s annual display is showcased on Grandview Avenue in Red Wing. This year, 114 jack-o’-lanterns line his front yard.
“I’ve had a lot of volunteers over the years that have come and gone. Some help carve, but I carved 81 of them this year,” Habedank said.
How does one person carve that many pumpkins in such a short amount of time? By starting early enough to ensure plenty of time to work.
Habedank collects the pumpkins from a countryside garden at the beginning of October. He then goes straight into washing and staging them in his backyard as a mock display of sorts. Once he sets it up in an aesthetically pleasing way, he labels each pumpkin with a corresponding design.
This year he started the carving process Oct. 14, giving him 10 days to finish the display.
He said each pumpkin takes about 40-45 minutes to carve. Do the math and he spent an estimated 3,240 minutes or 54 hours carving those 81 pumpkins.
Despite an ongoing pandemic, he said the weather has been more of an obstacle this year than anything else. Between an early snowstorm, a proceeding week of below-freezing temperatures, and now warming air, the pumpkins have been through a gauntlet of conditions.
“The frost and cold weather kind of did them in,” he said. “The pumpkins froze solid for three days, and now that they’ve thawed out they started to get soft. It’s been a rough weather year for pumpkins.”
Now in his 46th year of carving pumpkins for the display, Habedank said he’s ready to put an end to his involvement.
“My body just says no more. It’s just so much work in such a short time,” he said. “I’m kind of sad this year, too, knowing it’ll be my last year doing this. I won’t say I’ll never carve another pumpkin but it’s not going to be on this scale anymore.”
He hopes, however, that the tradition can continue elsewhere in the community. What started as a small neighborhood display has morphed into a community tradition.
“I was hoping to make it a community event and try to get people interested in carving,” he said. “I was down at the depot for five years trying to make it more accessible to the community and people from outside of town.”
Habedank’s display will be visible through Sunday, Nov. 1. If you are interested in viewing the jack-o’-lanterns, masks and social distancing are required if outside your vehicle. Donations are also welcome.
Habedank said in the first few years of the display, he didn’t collect any donations, but for the past 30 years he began accepting donations for the Red Wing Area Food Shelf. Pet food is also accepted.