Arts & Entertainment

Rise, and Come Along – Glorious Halloween at Descanso Gardens

Yoda bids you to come and see! - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Yoda bids you to come and see! – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Annual ‘RISE of the Jack O’ Lanterns’ Through Nov. 1
There’s still time!

By Courtney Blackburn

It would be safe to say thousands of people milled about the front entrance to Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge last Sunday night, Oct. 18, 2015. Mothers and fathers with strollers, one tiny girl dressed up as Cinderella, teenagers in noisily cheerful groups, and grandparents beaming — all had come to see the RISE.

RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns is a celebrated Halloween spectacular featuring more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o’-lanterns created by top RISE artists and sculptors along a 1/3-mile scenic trail with striking renditions of enormous dragons, larger-than-life crabs, classic cars, favorite characters like SpongeBob and Spiderman, and so much more. The jack o’ lantern trail is set to an original music score produced exclusively for The RISE—creepy, but strangely lovely, is how I’d describe it. The entire family-friendly stroll is a multi-sensory experience that is constantly re-imagined and re-invented to bring the best RISE experience to guests of all ages.

Yes, it was this dark. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Yes, it was this dark. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

One jack-o’-lantern—a pumpkin or squash hollowed and lit from within to illuminate a face carved on the outside, usually funny or scary—can be a treat. 5,000, each uniquely carved with its own particular expression, are a bonanza for the eyes. At Descanso’s RISE, once past the crowded front entry, a dim, cool, dark calm greets you as the trail beings. Happily, ushers with flashlights are there to call out season’s greetings and point you in the right direction. Many, like Marlana, are from the Walter Hovey Home in Pasadena (http://walterhovinghome.org) and have been standing vigilant since the RISE opened on Oct. 1, 2015.

Several dozen yards later, neon-lit bathrooms appear in the darkness to the right. To the left, a female gingko tree. How do I know? The smell—female gingko trees, when they mature at age 25 or so, drop seeds come autumn. These seeds are described variously as smelling like strong French cheese or feet.

Luis Rodriguez, a Rise Carver. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Luis Rodriguez, a Rise Carver. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Bill Bywater, Creative Director for The Rise. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Bill Bywater, Creative Director for The Rise. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Pungent nature is just part of the Halloween experience, and far enough that the air is clear and fresh, a refreshment stand lights the way. Across the dirt road, two pumpkin-carvers are hard at work sculpting twisted faces into the soft orange flesh. Wearing a mic and explaining the process, Bill Bywater, Creative Director for The Rise, takes questions from whoever asks. Meanwhile Luis Rodriguez, a Rise Carver, carved with a smile. According to Bill, a pumpkin without its insides removed is not technically a jack-o’-lantern, but it does last longer—up to two weeks. He explained Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the RISE is closed for pumpkin upkeep and replacement.

Like fireworks that light up the night, grinning faces leer and beckon, as the RISE really begins. Around a lit fountain, with a crescent moon glowing through clouds above silhouetted trees, jacks of all colors wait. In the other direction, the famous jack-o’-lantern tree—hundreds of feet above the ground, and every foot strung with glowing orange—causes viewers to gasp and whip out their cells phones. In fact, you could say there were two sources of light that night: glowing jack-o’-lanterns, and cell phone photography. Everyone wanted to capture the Halloween magic.

Just one of many pumpkin carvings that caused general awe and delight. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Just one of many pumpkin carvings that caused general awe and delight. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Just some of the wondrous things to see on the trail: Spiderman, a web, and a huge spider; life-size giraffes, tigers, and lions; painted pumpkins; dinosaur skeletons with sound effects; Disney-Pixar advertising their newest movie; stunning jellyfish, a swarm of fish, and SpongeBob; and finally, a 50-foot dragon surrounded by Chinese characters, bidding you goodbye.

But you’ll definitely be back next year. RISE is unique Halloween journey into artistic passion and glowing beauty, and there’s nothing to equal it. These sights, sounds, and smells in the cool October air… the experience was magical.

“RISE of the Jack O’ Lanterns” runs Thursday through Sunday nights, from Oct. 1 through Nov. 1, 2015, during varying evening hours, ranging from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance at therise.org. Tickets are not sold at the door. Ticket prices vary from $22-28. Children two and younger admitted free. Discount tickets may be available for certain dates and times while supplies last with a promo code which can be obtained exclusively at therise.org. “The RISE” is a rain-or-shine event.

Just one of many pumpkin carvings that caused general awe and delight. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Just one of many pumpkin carvings that caused general awe and delight. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Just one of many pumpkin carvings that caused general awe and delight. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

Just some of many pumpkin carvings that caused general awe and delight–and amateur photography. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

A T-Rex emerges from the darkness. In related news, Jurassic World comes out October 20, 2015... - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

A T-Rex emerges from the darkness. In related news, ‘Jurassic World’ comes out October 20, 2015… – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

A personal favorite, the glowing jellyfish. In the background, a life-size giraffe can be seen. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

A personal favorite, the glowing jellyfish. In the background, a life-size giraffe can be seen. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

The glorious tree at the center of the RISE. - Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

The glorious tree at the center of the RISE. – Photo by Zuleyka Araiza

October 20, 2015

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