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At Second Christian Reformed Church in Allendale, Mich., October means it’s time for the annual Pumpkin Walk. For nine years running, the church has welcomed its community to an all-ages pumpkin display through the wooded lot on the church grounds.

The church has seen the event grow from about 800 visitors in its first year to more than 6,500 guests during the three-night event in 2015.

“The goal is a simple one,” said the church’s pastor, Harold Veldman, who co-organized this year’s event with his wife, Mary. “There are several haunted houses and scary options during the Halloween season. [We] wanted to provide a family-friendly alternative. The intent is for the church to serve the community for those few days, nothing more.”  

Visitors stroll along the quarter-mile (400 m) path arranged with hundreds of carved masterpieces with themes ranging from cartoon favourites, animals, and typical grinning faces—just nothing scary.

Church members spend two nights preparing the pumpkins. Veldman said they make an assembly line with four or five volunteers “gutting” the pumpkins in the parking lot while the “artists” do the intricate work inside the ministry building. More volunteers bake and prepare hot chocolate and coffee. “This event is a very labor-intensive week,” Veldman said.  “The appreciation makes it all worthwhile.” 

Donations accepted during the Pumpkin Walk go towards expenses of the event—the 500 or so pumpkins bought wholesale from a local farmer, hay bales, and other necessary supplies. In the first years, Veldman said “people got angry with us for not having a donation bucket out . . . they wanted to show appreciation.”

The idea for a Pumpkin Walk first came from Rachael Windemuller, a member at Second Church and Veldman’s daughter, after she attended a similar event in another state.

“There was nothing like it in our area. It was as simple as a mom's motivation to want a better option for young families,” Veldman said.

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