Homegrown pumpkins a downtown tradition

ENCINITAS — The ghouls and goblins, pirates and princesses and more than a few local characters were on hand to celebrate a Safe Trick or Treat in downtown on Halloween night.
A longtime tradition sponsored by the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association, the event has grown with support from local merchants. Children of all ages dressed for the occasion and participated in games and crafts at the Lumberyard while listening to a children’s band courtesy of the 101 Artists’ Colony.
Many families have made celebrating Halloween downtown a tradition for various reasons. “Our neighborhood doesn’t really get into the spirit of the night,” said Marie DeSantos, who lives in Olivenhain. “Everyone is so busy that once the night finally rolls around there are a million other things to do and handing out candy all night just isn’t on the list.”
“We go door-to-door on a few streets but we come here to see the amazing pumpkins and hear the kids’ band,” local resident Amber Messbay said. For the past two years she and her husband, Dave, have enjoyed the festivities with their daughters, Paige, 5, and Sara, 7. “My husband and I started dressing up, too because it really gets the kids excited and you can walk around pretty anonymous at Halloween,” she said. “I love to go into some of the places that I shop and nobody knows who I am.”
Until 2001, the Self-Realization Fellowship hosted a Halloween festival that featured intricately carved pumpkins as a highlight of the evening. “It just became too big of an event for us to handle,” Brother Gordon said. “What started out as a few hundred people decades ago turned into thousands and we just couldn’t handle the capacity.”
However, the organization has been donating carved pumpkins to DEMA’s Halloween celebration for the past nine years. The elaborately carved pumpkins were displayed at various viewing stations along Highway 101. Children and adults alike marveled at the designs as crowds packed in to get a closer view. “There are so many different designs that represent pop culture and trends to the hometown vibe,” said Larry Polterton, a Poway resident who has made the trek to the coast for over a decade to see the pumpkins. “My kids are grown so this is my little slice of Halloween,” he said.
Postulant-or beginning monks are responsible for carving the pumpkins each year in addition to their spiritual studies and meditation. “We leave it up to the postulants and their own creativity what they want to carve,” Gordon said.
This season’s harvest was plucked from SRF-owned fields along Vulcan Ave. at Santa Fe Dr. “We had to take them a little early because they’re too tempting, Gordon said. “Did you see them?” he asked. “They were hearty and people sometimes have a tendency to try to take them and find out how heavy they are and might end up either hurting themselves or destroying the pumpkin.”
Numerous businesses along Highway 101 passed out goodies to trick-or-treaters-enough to scare any dentist. Many of the shop and restaurant owners got into the spirit of Halloween by dressing in costume themselves. From The Den just north of Encinitas Boulevard and Highway 101 down to the southern end of “Pumpkin Lane” at the Self-Realization Fellowship Bookstore, downtown was transformed into a Halloween tailored to the entire community. “It just keeps getting bigger and better every year,” Barbara Burke said. “I’ve seen it grow and the kids have more fun this year than any before.”

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