Dayton Tradition: The Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow {Heart of DMC}

The Heart of DMC post highlights an organization chosen by a member of the DMC writing team. The chosen organization is near and dear to the heart of the person who authored this piece and publication of this post does not indicate endorsement or a sponsored relationship with DMC as an organization.

The leaves whip and tumble across the concrete on a brisk evening, the last week of October in Dayton. As I push the stroller down the sidewalk, laugher and excitement can be heard all around. Fall is in the air and the hillside is aglow with the light of over 1,000 carved pumpkins.

It is finally here; the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow.

Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow

My family and I have attended the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow the past two years. The atmosphere and energy felt at Pumpkin Glow is unlike any Halloween event I have ever attended. The scene could easily be a part of any of our beloved Halloween movies like ‘Hocus Pocus’ or ‘Halloweentown.’

I decided to take a moment to learn more about the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow by catching up with the curator himself, John Edinger, president of Grafton Hill Neighborhood Association.

John Edinger began carrying the torch of curating and organizing Pumpkin Glow in 2017. John was kind enough to share a bit of history, some fun facts, and an exciting opportunity for community members to share their love for the season!

Q: What is the history of the Pumpkin Glow?  

A: The Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow was started by Judy Chaffin. Judy started Pumpkin Glow with 30 pumpkins behind her house. She loved making the holidays special for her family and friends. It was always really neat to see the joy she brought to others through the Pumpkin Glow. First, for her friends and family, then for the community. In 2015, she had grown the event to 880 pumpkins.

Judy always hosted the preparations and carving at her house. She even hosted a volunteer appreciation party at her home, complete with decorations and spooky surprises. Judy Chaffin passed away shortly after Pumpkin Glow 2018 in December. Last year was the first year Judy wasn’t there in person to celebrate. In commemoration of her founding and dedication to the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow, there was a special Judy Chaffin ‘Pumpkin Lady’ pumpkin carving created by a professional pumpkin sculptor and master carver for the 2019 Pumpkin Glow.

John shared the process of preparing the event with volunteers. Pumpkin Glow takes place the last Monday and Tuesday in October. Carving takes place each year from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. in tents by the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. Pumpkin carving takes about four days total starting the Thursday before the event. Day one is dedicated to gutting all the pumpkins and giving them a special angled bottom. The angle ensures there are no run-a-way pumpkins when they are placed on the hill. Then the following three days are filled with tracing stencils, carving out the designs, and fellowship with volunteers. Community members donate snacks, coffee, and donuts to keep the volunteers energized.

2017 was the first time the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow hosted food trucks. They close the street on Stoddard and made it a one way to host food trucks, like Zombie Dogs, and booths with apple cider and other treats.

The total cost to host Pumpkin Glow is around $10,000. John estimates between 6,000-8,000 people volunteer and attend Pumpkin Glow annually. The Grafton Hill Neighborhood Association is a 501(c)(3), which makes the glow a free event, through grants and donations. The legacy of the event is to always be a free and family-friendly.

Although this year’s glow has been canceled due to COVID-19, please mark your calendars to volunteer as a family in 2021. Volunteers are needed the Thursday through Sunday prior to the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow.

Q: What is the largest glow you’ve hosted? How many pumpkins?

A: 1,000+ in 2019. The planning committee is always asking, “How can we make it better?” Last year we had a photo booth. Tents are available to eat and enjoy the music. If community members and businesses are interested in being involved, you can email or visit our website.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about the tradition?

A: I love hearing all the comments at the glow and watching people find their pumpkins. You get such a good feeling when people are enjoying the event.
The most fun is really the gutting and carving days. The committee is always there in shifts. You see the people having a great time with friends and family. We provide all the tools and stencils and designs. Seeing all the people that come out to help and make memories with their family and friends is the best.

I look forward to meeting new volunteers and seeing familiar faces each year. They truly bring the event to life! It is not possible without the help and support of so many people. It is the Grafton Hill neighborhood; however, we have had volunteers from all over. We have had people from Greenville and even out-of-state to help with creating the evening. If you want to be involved in 2021, there are many ways to be involved: donations of food, monetary donations, and giving your time, just a few. Just get involved and have fun!

A Few Fun Facts:

  • The serpent pumpkin sculpture has scented candles inside to make the hill smell like pumpkin spice. Scented candles are made by a volunteer and her daughter every year. She is a master carver that does the more difficult designs, like Spiderman.

  • Although there are pumpkins on the ground, love is in the air! The Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow has had two marriage proposals. In the most recent proposal, someone emailed the Grafton Hill Neighborhood Association to request bringing their own carved pumpkin to the glow with ‘Will You Marry Me?’ carved in it. The pumpkin was placed amongst the hundreds of carved pumpkins for the girl to find as they walked through the pumpkin glow.

Although the annual glow is canceled this year, our family will be celebrating the spirit and legacy of the Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow by carving a pumpkin for our porch and sharing the photo for a virtual Pumpkin Glow on Instagram. John shared, “Instagram is going to be the easiest way to celebrate this year! Share your favorite Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow memories throughout the month of October, to help us celebrate.” #StoddardAvenuePumpkinGlow2020 #StoddardGlow2020 #GraftonHill

We will also be throwing on some Halloween music and viewing the virtual 2020 Stoddard Avenue Pumpkin Glow here.