Ecotarium’s Great Pumpkin Nights

In former years, the EcoTarium has hosted a Pumpkin Festival, boasting carved pumpkins, trick-or-treating for children and the opportunity to explore the museum after hours.

This year, however, the EcoTarium will be hosting Great Pumpkin Nights. And the focus, according to Kerry Castorano, the EcoTarium’s director of institutional advancement, is on the wow factor.

Though the Great Pumpkin Festival of years past focused mainly on carved pumpkins, this year the EcoTarium has added a new medium. “The difference between the Pumpkin Festival and this event is that we will have structures of carved animals, dinosaurs and Red Sox structures. This is really about spectacle, and they are larger than life, and we think people are really excited about it. Some of these structures measure 40 feet tall, so it will bring a sense of novelty to the event.”

And there will be more chances to see the spectacle this year. “We are offering more days for the public to come. If the weather is bad, there are other opportunities for others to come, make it more accessible and make it less weather-dependent. So, now there’s options; we think we will get different groups on different dates. We think Friday and Saturdays will be the most popular for families with young kids.”

This event is a family event, and the EcoTarium wanted to find a way to make its mission accessible to the immediate community that it serves.

“We were looking for something that the community could enjoy above and beyond our museum experience. We wanted to have a big event where people from all over the community could come and enjoy, where they could experience the science and nature that is so true to our mission, and the Pumpkin Nights was a perfect fit. We also offer sleepover nights at the museum for small groups and families, and we love to offer opportunities to experience the museum at night.”

This event has involved monumental planning between the EcoTarium, local organizations and sponsors. As a nonprofit, the capacity to plan and execute a large-scale event without community support would be near impossible, Castorano said. “As a non-profit we have limited funds to put towards large events, and there is a lot we don’t know about planning these types of events, so we got people to help us who do know. We have quite a few sponsors involved; we will have volunteers from Escape Games and people helping to design the landscape of the events.”

Escape Games Worcester played a pivotal role in connecting the EcoTarium with skilled and reliable pumpkin carvers, whose art will be displayed throughout the grounds. “We didn’t have to go through an application process with artists because Escape Games had previously worked with these individuals and knew how to contact and collaborate with them.”

Despite considerable support from local sponsors, the EcoTarium also relies heavily on community volunteers to ensure the event runs smoothly.

“We have community members who volunteer as individuals, and some people just absolutely love Halloween and want to come in and help,” Castorano said. “WPI will send a group of students to help put the structures together to make sure all the parts are there and everything is working correctly.”

Admission to the Great Pumpkin Nights will be less than the cost of general museum admission, Castorano said. “We wanted to keep the pricing the same as previous years to make it accessible within the community, while still being able to cover production costs.”

To volunteer at the EcoTarium, contact the volunteer coordinator at (508) 929-2708. The Great Pumpkin Nights will run Oct. 19-22 and 26-29 at The EcoTarium, 222 Harrington Way, Worcester. Admission is $12 for members and $16 for non-members. For more information, visit

Victoriahope MCAULIFFE