It’s ‘King of Carving’ season: Hightstown man expertly crafts pumpkins and gourds

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Glen Dalessandro has been carving pumpkins and gourds for more than 25 years. He recently displayed his skills at the Hickory Corner Branch Library in East Windsor.

By Vita Duva, Correspondent
Carve them, bake them, mash them – even, smash them. For many, October is the ultimate season for pumpkin everything.
And whether your custom is stepping in line at your favorite café for a sip of something hot and pumpkin spiced, or a trip with your family to the pumpkin patch to pick out the best pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern, pumpkins are all the rage this fall season.
But for Hightstown resident Glen Dalessandro – the self-proclaimed “King of Carving” – that pumpkin craze does not just begin and end with the month of October.
Mr. Dalessandro has been carving, crafting and painting pumpkins and gourds professionally since 1991.
“I’ve been carving for more than 25 years now,” Mr. Dalessandro said. “I figure I can give myself the name.”
For many years, Mr. Dalessandro was a friendly neighbor of the Byrnes Family on Stockton Street in Hightstown.
The Byrnes Family home, which was famously dubbed “The Pumpkin House,” was featured in many newspapers, including The New York Times, for its extravagant pumpkin displays.
“One day I walked by, and I stopped to ask if I could try to carve one of their pumpkins,” Mr. Dalessandro explained of his initial interest and start in pumpkin carving. “And I was good at it.”
A regular fixture at the Hickory Corner Branch Library in East Windsor, Mr. Dalessandro most recently conducted a pumpkin-carving demonstration for library participants aged seven to adult.
“I come costumed as the ‘King of Carving’ and I have bells and whistles – it keeps the attention of the people in the audience,” Mr. Dalessandro said of his fun presentation style.
Before the “King of Carving” begins to carve any freshly picked pumpkin, he crafts it. He cuts out pieces of color felt, and then glues the pieces on the pumpkin to match the parts of the face that he wants to construct.
“Then, maybe you put a wild hat on top,” he expressed. “I have a couple of wigs that my mother used to have that I like to use.”
When that is all said and done, Mr. Dalessandro goes to work using a pumpkin carving knife.
“So, say I carve a scary face – after I carve it, I then go back over the cuts with a straight razor,” said Mr. Dalessandro of his perfected technique.
He also paints dry gourds.
“I drill a hole in the flower end, and wipe it down with ammonia to get rid of any fungus. I then sit the gourd near a radiator – by Thanksgiving or even, December, they’ll be dry – and I sand it and I paint it,” he said.
Mr. Dalessandro only paints gourds using acrylics and sharpie markers. He then paints a shiny finish on the gourds for good measure.
For a closer look at Mr. Dalessandro’s work with pumpkins and dried painted gourds, visit http://newjersey.news12.com/multimedia/halloween-fun-nj-s-king-of-