Every year in the month of October, the sleepy West Sussex village of Slindon, England, stirs up to the Pumpkin Festival – a seasonal display of hundreds of pumpkins, squashes and gourds. Now in its 44th straight year, the display attracts tourists from as far as Germany, Japan and Australia.
The tradition began in 1968 when Ralph Upton placed his yearly crop of pumpkins on his shed to ripen. The display attracted the eyeballs of the village folk. The next year he tried again, using the roof of his wooden shed as a canvas on which he created a mural with his harvest. Since then the display has been growing larger and more complicated. Each year there is new theme - the Universe, the Pyramids and the Rialto Bridge in Venice. Using helpers Ralph Upton used pumpkins to create boats, butterflies, witches, Noah's Ark and even dinosaurs.
"I can't paint pictures, but I can paint with pumpkins," says Upton. "Originally, we began lining pumpkins along the roof to cure the skins because they don't keep unless they're exposed to the sun. Gradually we worked out patterns and people have come to expect it."
Since the 1950s until his death in 2009, Ralph Upton was growing pumpkins, squashes and gourds in his six-acre plot and planted a staggering 15,000 to 20,000 seeds each spring to produce an organic harvest of more than 50 varieties. He was once nick-named The Pumpkin King - a title he truly deserved.
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