Storytelling Dinner is a signature event at The Settlers Inn. For one weekend at the end of October, a horde of hand-carved jack-o-lanterns illuminate The Undercroft Room. Founder Grant Genzlinger is our carver-in-chief who he leads the team that creates a menagerie of characters each year. We talked to Grant about the event’s beginnings and asked him to shed some light on how to wow with your own jack-o-lanterns this Halloween.
Inn the Beginning
Grant was carving pumpkins even before The Settlers Inn came into being. Then, what began as a unique way to decorate took on a life of its own when friends Marica and David Dunsmore joined him and inspired the launch of Storytelling Dinners in 1987. Today they carve between 100 and 120 pumpkins of all shapes and sizes just for this two-day event. All the jack-o-lanterns are created in one day with Grant and David usually working from 10 a.m.- 10 p.m. Family, friends and co-workers pitch in periodically for a day of community carving.
Grant and David are known for elaborate and intricate carvings- creating everything from actual-size pumpkin people to miniature scenes. According to Grant, the secret to achieving these designs is to use small model railroading tools and dental instruments such as saws, chisels, scrapers and drills. For reverse carving, David prefers pumpkins with a smooth surface and thin skin. It takes between 30 minutes to one hour to carve large pumpkins or those with a particularly intricate design.
Each jack-o-lantern is unique and imbued with its own characteristics. Grant says his ideas are fluid and he draws inspiration from everyday life and current headlines, but never repeats a look from year to year. David comes to the table with a host of creative ideas, fine-tuned throughout the year to incorporate the chosen theme.
When it comes to carving your own pumpkins, Grant advises, “Take your time, enjoy learning from others and just let your creative juices flow!” There are a few options to illuminate the finished product. You can use a candle in pumpkins that are carved through, but Grant cautions that candle heat shortens a pumpkin’s life. “We use a lot of compact fluorescent bulbs, which are cooler, or the new LED soft white,” Grant explains. Here’s another pro tip to try-set the light on crumpled aluminum foil so it reflects.
Inn the Mood
The room, aglow with one-of-a-kind jack-o-lanterns, sets the mood for tales spun by storyteller Sandy Gabrielson. In addition to relating captivating tales uncovered in books or magazines, Sandy writes one new story especially for the event. He culls inspiration from personal experiences and adapts them to add just the right amount of fright for the occasion. In anticipation of this year’s theme- ghosts and goblins- Sandy hopes listeners are a little bit scared, a little bit surprised and thoroughly entertained.
Storytelling Dinner unfolds October 25 and 26 and includes a seasonal farm-to-table meal and live music by fiddlers Jung Bergo. Call 570-226-2993 for reservations. If you can’t make it to the event, join us for breakfast, brunch or dinner on October 26 and 27 to see the beautifully carved pumpkins all about the Inn.