Pumpkins and spiders and goblins, Oh My! A tour of SAP’s Halloween “haunts”

By Gwen Willems

As Halloween approaches, neighbors in St. Anthony Park and nearby environs are preparing for Halloween. We talked with a few avid Halloween decorators and invite you to check out their houses during the last days of October.

The Pumpkin House

Photo credit: Hazel Georgieff biking in front of her pumpkin home. Photo provided by Georgieff family.

Paul Georgieff and his family moved into the Pumpkin House at 2090 Commonwealth Ave., on the corner of Commonwealth and Raymond, a little more than three years ago and have been decorating it every fall.

“The house is this big orange canvas, and it seemed appropriate to put some kind of jack o’lantern on it,” Georgieff said. “I don’t think anybody did it before, which is amazing. It’s a missed opportunity.” Built in 1887, the house is shingle-style centennial architecture with few embellishments and a barn-like shape. As part of that style, the front of the house is a bare, expansive space.

His first attempt at creating a jack o’lantern was a total flop, according to Georgieff, an engineer by trade. He used cardboard cutouts duck-taped together to form a jack o’lantern on the front of the house, but the wind flipped it around and blew it down.

His next design was successful, with an orange cruciform structure behind it that supports the pieces, tethered to the top. The whole thing is only two pieces bolted together in a cross shape. One of them has the eyes attached and the other the nose and mouth. It’s easy to hang up and it spends the rest of the year in his garage.

The decorated house is popular. People walk around to look at it, and drivers pull over and get out of their cars to take pictures of it.

Carving up family fun

Photo credit: Pumpkins lined up in front of the Hansen house. Photo courtesy Brenda Hansen.

Brenda Hansen’s favorite Halloween activity is carving pumpkins with her and Mark Hansen’s three children and oldest three of five grandchildren, who are 22, 15 and 9 years old. Stop by to see the line-up of a dozen or more carvings in front of their house on Carter Avenue between Gordon Avenue and Keston Street.

Their designs are creative, often inspired by a celebrity, TV show or movie. Twenty-two-year-old Chloe once carved a pumpkin based on a Lady Gaga album cover. Sesame Street and Wicked characters also made appearances.

“It makes a mess in the kitchen,” Brenda says, but “the fun is just getting together.”

Celebrating with neighbors

Photo credit: Emily Alewine’s house across from Alden Square Park. Photo courtesy Emily Alewine.

Emily Alewine’s front lawn decorations include a Spooky Tree. She is also co-coordinator of the Pumpkins-in-the-Park event.

She lives right on Alden Square Park at Gibbs Avenue and Brewster Street, which has a gazebo, a children’s free library and what Alewine describes as “a great place for little kids to trick or treat.” She loves Halloween and is motivated by “creating an experience for the neighborhood that is family friendly, not gory scary, just a fun thing to do, since there aren’t a lot of kid-focused fun things anymore.”

Pumpkins-in-the-Park is open to all participants, said Alewine, “so anyone who wants to bring a carved pumpkin, can leave their pumpkin at the park. We’ll take care of it, and we’ll dispose of it later.” Now in its fourth year, the event showcases 40–50 pumpkins all day, for four or five consecutive days leading up to Halloween, with a daily pumpkin lighting event.

One of Alewine’s favorite memories is of an adult walking down the street, who noticed her house behind the bushes as he talked on the phone, and then suddenly said, “Oh, you have to see this house!”

And more decorations!

Our neighbors at these addresses encourage you to check out their trimmings.

Photo credit: Annie Tighe and Kevin Kansy added a 12-foot skeleton this year to their already elaborate home display on Scudder Street. Submitted photo.

Shawna and Chad Maryanovich, on Chelmsford Street between Doswell and Buford Avenues, decorate to create convivial community and celebrate interdependence. The Maryanovich family adorns their front boulevard and yard with a 50-by-15-foot lit-up spider web reaching from 5 to 25 feet in the air, with a large family of spiders roaming within it. You’ll also see tombstones, a glowing “spider shoot” reaching from the top of the yard to the sidewalk below, pumpkins, lanterns, ghoulish and fanciful figures, projected images and lights. Neighbors gather around the fire in their yard for dinner and s’mores.

Jayna Paquin, 1484 Branston St., said she’s always loved Halloween and now enjoys decorating with her 12-year-old son. “I still like costumes but think that outdoor decorations do more to spread the Halloween spirit,” Jayna said. “I love walking around and seeing the different ways our neighbors represent the season — everything from harvest themes to full-blown graveyards.”

Annie Tighe, Kevin Kansy and their 7- and 14-year-old children have decorated their yard at 2217 Scudder St. annually since they moved here in 2018. The Halloween decorations get more elaborate, building up to a 12-foot skeleton they are adding this year. Tighe said it’s really great to see preschoolers’ reactions to the lit-up inflatables. They hope we see more trick-or-treaters this year.

Joanna Carina recreates the “Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” special in the family’s yard at 2117 Dudley Ave. (Dudley Avenue at Hythe Street). Among those making appearances are painted wooden Peanuts characters, Woodstock, Snoopy, a witch flying through a tree, ghosts and trick-or-treating kids. It’s all approved by her two youngsters and neighbors who several times dubbed it “the cutest yard in St. Anthony Park.”

Finding pumpkins locally

You can buy ready-to-carve pumpkins from a gardener on Scudder Street (see the sign on the south side of Como Avenue at Scudder), Speedy Market or the Hampden Park Co-op. 

Gwen Willems lives in Falcon Heights and is a freelance writer for the Park Bugle.

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