CIRCLEVILLE — Will you see the Pumpkin Man at the Pumpkin Show this year? If not, he’s now visible as the centerpiece of a children’s book created by four Circleville High School students.
Those four authors include Aubrey Smith, a senior; Jayla Parsons a junior; and illustrators Jaymen Salas and Mearan “Buzz” Bahney, both sophomores, created the book, Will I See the Pumpkin Man? Bahney, Salas and Smith presented the book to elementary school students Thursday morning who were also surprised by an in-person visit from the Pumpkin Man.
Smith said her teacher, Monica Lombardo, wanted the students to come up with a book about the Pumpkin Show.
“I thought of the Pumpkin Man because when I was a little girl he’s what I loved seeing,” she said. “I did a storyboard, wrote it all down and then Parsons said why don’t we do a where’s Waldo kind of thing since he’s in all the pictures and the repetitive of Will I See the Pumpkin Man so it would be more of a kid’s story.”
Lombardo said the project was brilliant and the students’ collaborating was a good thing.
“They got experience on working on being collaborative and working on several drafts,” Lombardo stated. “For Aubrey she knew immediately when I gave them the writing prompt the Pumpkin Man was her vision. Jayla was so smart to think of children’s books and the repetition. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I want them to see they can make their dreams come true if they’re willing to work hard enough and let their imagination soar.”
Tom Egbert, the Pumpkin Man, said it was the first time that he was aware that he was the subject of a book. He said it feels great to be in front of the students as part of the event.
“Anything that brings attention to the Pumpkin Show and this festival is wonderful,” Egbert commented. “I had someone ask me from TV years ago why I do this and I had him follow me for about five minutes and the kids’ eyes just light up.”
Egbert said he usually visits the area elementary schools and nursing homes ahead of the Pumpkin Show.
“You learn a lot [at the nursing homes] from people who have been going for ages,” he said. “They tell me a lot of stories about the Pumpkin Show.”
Egbert said it is an amazing feeling to be the subject of the book, having done it now for 25 years.
“They’ve seen me since they were kids — Bill Hulse did it for 17 years and this is my 25th,” he added. “There’s been a Pumpkin Man around for a long time.”
Smith said it took her and Parsons about a week to write all the lines between their ideas before presenting the idea and handing it off to Bahney and Salas. Bahney drew all the backgrounds on her phone using an app and Salas hand drew all the characters.
“For me specifically there wasn’t a lot of time to work on it so I got as much done as I could,” Bahney said. “I ended up being really happy with how it turned out. The technology is interesting because I think it’s amazing that phones can store as much information as they do and they can create professional things.”
Salas said he spent a lot of during the school day working on the project.
“There was a lot of back and forth and touch ups but that’s to be expected on a piece of art,” he said. “Overall it was very fun and I’m very happy to have both of my teachers wanting me to do it and work on it.”
All three students said it was a labor of love, even though it was only a two-week turnaround.
The books are available through the school’s fee portal, EZ pay, which is available on the district’s website. The students and teachers are hopeful to find a way to sell physical copies during the Pumpkin Show and make this project a yearly routine.
“We posted something about it on social media and it had over 100 shares,” Lombardo said. “I think anything Pumpkin Show people get excited about. It really is that time when there are a lot of traditions and it’s a time to get kids excited about Pumpkin Show.”
Bahney and Salas say they want to go into the art field and Smith said she plans to go into communication.
“I’m really interested in going into the art field and I love to work on creating books of this style,” Bahney said. “I think it’s a really creative activity to participate in and it would help the community to provide something really wholesome like this.”
The three book creators present each took turns reading the book to the elementary students and were thrilled with the reactions they received from the students.
“It feels fantastic,” Salas said. “I had a lot of anxiety because little kids are honest, brutally, because they don’t know better. If they didn’t like it they’d say it without thinking. I’m really happy they enjoyed it, had a lot of questions and were fascinated by how we did it.”
“It had a magical aspect to it to see all these kids react to it in a positive way,” Bahney said. “It felt like all the work paid off.”