Posted in Past events

2013 Jack Hanna’s Pumpkin Carving Competition

We happened to be at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for the final day of a three-day pumpkin carving contest (it was held Sept. 20-22). On this last day the competitors were asked to carve a single, large, freestyle pumpkin. We enjoyed seeing the carvers at work and looking at pumpkins that were carved earlier in the contest, and it seemed like a nice topic to start of the month of October. Since the contest was being held at a zoo, many of the carvings explored the zoo and aquarium theme.

Gorilla pumpkin


In case you are wondering at the name of the competition, “Jungle Jack” Hanna is largely responsible for transforming the Columbus Zoo into the number one zoo in America (according to the 2009 USA Travel Guide). He is now the Director Emeritus of the zoo. You might remember him from his days when he made the round of talk shows with animals in tow.

Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon NPS, license: CC BY 2.0


“Jungle” Jack Hanna to the left

And with that let’s take a look at some of the pumpkins.

Shark pumpkin carving by Gus Smithhisler
Snake coiled into a nest protecting eggs
Lion carving
Human head carving by Gus Smithhisler
Owl on its nest
Perl in an oyster
Spooky carving by Titus Arensberg

And here are some of the pumpkin carvers at work.

Jess Parish working on a rabbit with a completed flying pig to the rear.
Jonathon Michael working a spider
Unfortunately I didn’t photograph the artist’s name banner for this one, but he’s working on a sea turtle; it looks like he used green markers to color the pumpkin.

Some normal-sized pumpkins had also been carved and were on display.

Hummingbird and flowers
Unicorn carved into a pumpkin

While I was photographing some of the many carved pumpkins on display, I didn’t catch the name of all the artists. However, I did find a list of the competitors at the website for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium (home page). The actual page describing the competition no longer seems to be there (I was reading from a cached page at Google), but here’s a brief listing in which I also provide a bit of background information on each.

  • Titus Arensberg – He has six years of professional experience carving ice and fruit.
  • Robert Childers – He has 25 years professional experience carving as a Garde Manger Chef in the Chicago area
  • Brian Tater Edwards – He has two years of professional experience carving pumpkins; he is a chef at OSU.
  • Stephan Koch – He has been carving ice and fruit for 11 years, but also sculpts using a variety of materials.
  • Jon Michaels – He has been doing full-time ice sculpting work for the past 11 years.
  • Jim Morgan – He has been carving fruit for two years, has worked as an executive chef for 20 years, and now teaches at a college.
  • Dean Murray – He has 12 years experience carving pumpkins, including pumpkins on display on the White House Lawn for Halloween.
  • Gus Smithhisler – He started carving pumpkins 11 years ago, and he has been carving competitively since 2008.
  • Gabriel Vinas – Although still in college, Vinas has been developing his skills as a sculptor, and he began competitive pumpkin-carving last year.

I went online searching for the competition results to no avail. If anyone has heard, I’d be happy to hear from you!

What a great way to start autumn!




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5 thoughts on “2013 Jack Hanna’s Pumpkin Carving Competition

    1. He’s a legend around here. He took a rundown third rate zoo and turned it into one the top zoos in the U.S. The latest addition is the polar bear exhibit. The bears have a large open enclosure including their own chilled lake and underwater viewing areas for visitors.

      1. wonderful to hear of the improvements especially with our zoo’s poor reputation around Lucy the elephant.Toronto zoo is amazing with deep trenches separating people from animals so we can look at them with no bars between us or the bigger ones roam free within huge enclosures and you take a train through the area to observe them.

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