The Snowflake Inn on Jackson’s Main Street is used to an influx of unusual guests in October, but this year’s visitors to the bed and breakfast are a little out there.
For starters, there’s a guy with hooves for feet by the lamp post. A lion stands on guard on the lawn. Then there’s the mouse peering intently from inside a wardrobe closet. He’s wearing a red cape against the chill of the frozen landscape that stretches behind him.
It’s an elaborately set scene from “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” but making C.S. Lewis’ iconic children’s tale about a magical land even more enigmatic is the fact that these particular travelers are also gourds. They’re all part of the fun-loving Return of the Pumpkin People to Northern New Hampshire.
“Did you see the lion? That’s a blue Hubbard squash, and his feet are acorn squashes. The stem is his nose. As we cut slowly each piece off of his stem — you can’t do too much otherwise it compromises it and starts to rot, which is always a bad thing — it actually made a crease on his nose,” said Sue Methot, owner of the Snowflake Inn and part of a three-person team that recreated the children’s tale with precision and a sense of humor.
Kathleen Driscoll Flammia, executive director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce, said she’s amazed by the creativity and lengths to which people go to craft their pumpkin people — and animals. There are about 80 displays this year at area businesses. That includes everything from a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to an ode to actor Jim Carrey’s zoot suit-wearing super villain/hero in the movie “The Mask.”
The Inn at Ellis River has a “Welcome to the Jungle” display this year. In addition to Tarzan, the menagerie includes more than 15 animals, including elephants, tigers, lions, monkeys, zebra, giraffe and even a cute koala and hippo, said Mary Kendzierski, who with her husband, John, owns the Harriman Road bed and breakfast.
Creating a buzzThe quirky event draws a lot of attention through the end of October. The Pumpkin People went up just a week ago, but word has spread.
“We print 20,000 maps, and we’re halfway out of them,” Flammia said this past Tuesday.
Still, while the annual event may draw together a community, it wreaks havoc on marriages, said a teasing Methot.
“It’s terrible to do this right during foliage season, which is the busiest time for innkeepers, shopkeepers and restaurants. Everyone participates, and we all use lots of foul language when we’re putting these together,”’ she said, laughing. “You can’t imagine how many funny stories about near divorces over pumpkin people. Especially in my house. My house becomes a disaster for about a week once all supplies are here.”
She always recreates a scene with an arcing theme, as opposed to a single figure. The characters stretch across the inn’s lawn and up the walkway.
“That’s what drives my husband completely bonkers — in the middle of it when everybody’s sort of overtired and being silly,” she said, chuckling about the frenetic weeklong assembly each year.
Methot again teamed with artist Jenn Phair, and both got help from teenager Daria Cimino, who spotted an antique wardrobe for sale on a marketplace on Facebook. It was perfect for a tale about children who discover a piece of furniture is a doorway to a snow-covered place with talking animals and an evil witch.
“The wardrobe is an antique from Barrington,” Methot said. “The gentleman who owned it (said) it’s his grandmother-in-law’s wardrobe.”
Methot recalls one of them let slip the fact that it would now be part of Narnia.
“At first it was one of those ‘gasp’ moments — ‘Oh, gosh, we shouldn’t have said anything. It’s an antique from somebody’s grandma.’
They braced for a reaction from the seller.
“He goes, ‘What? What? Oh, my God, she’ll love that idea,’” Methot said. “So they are coming by to see their wardrobe being used by pumpkin people — with a mouse inside.”
In the weeks leading up to the Pumpkin People unveiling, Methot, who in years past has recreated scenes from “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Neverending Story” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” said she gathers all sorts of fabrics remnants and materials gleaned from shops and junk stores.
“I see the finished project (in my mind), but I don’t have any idea of how to get it from that bolt to a dress in a matter of hours. Getting there is all Jenn. Duck tape and safety pins are our friends, and Flex-Seal,” she added.
Visitors can vote for their favorite Pumpkin People. Download a map of the displays from jacksonnh.com.