Carving out some charity: Professional sculptors carve pumpkins in support of Benton Harbor Library

William Wilson, from Cincinnati, carves a Frankenstein head into a pumpkin Wednesday during the Inn at Harbor Shores’ “PumpkINN” Carving Competition. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

William Wilson, from Cincinnati, carves a Frankenstein head into a pumpkin Wednesday during the Inn at Harbor Shores’ “PumpkINN” Carving Competition. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Titus Arensberg created a stick of dynamite for charity Wednesday night.

The Columbus, Ohio, resident is a sculptor who dabbles in every medium from ice to sand. During his stay in St. Joseph, he sculpted a bomb squad trying to extinguish dynamite out of several pumpkins.

Arensberg, along with three other Ohio natives, crafted pumpkins that will benefit the Benton Harbor Public Library. Carving took place outside of the Inn at Harbor Shores, as a part of the “PumpkINN” Carving Competition. People voted on their favorite pumpkin, with the first ballot being free. Additional ballots were purchased for $5 each, where proceeds went to the library.

Brianne Schmidke, director of sales and marketing for the inn, said they wanted to do something different for the community.

“The Benton Harbor Library can be forgotten sometimes,” Schmidke said. “Pumpkin carving is something that isn’t done in our area. We have a great ice sculpting competition in downtown St. Joseph, so the idea stemmed from that.”

By getting a library representative to come out and read scary stories to children – who arrived in costume – parents and guests were able to vote for their favorite carved pumpkin. Carving and voting continues at the Inn on Thursday.

Rock on Ice, an ice-carving company based in Ohio, carves any temporary medium such as cheese, clay, ice, melon, sand and pumpkins. The company takes part in the St. Joseph ice sculpting contest every year and was contacted by the inn to carve up some charity.

The four sculptors who were carving outside Wednesday evening brought a few pieces that were done the night before as well.

Cincinnati resident William Wilson created a Frankenstein monster pumpkin the night before and was busily working on a more silly face for the bidding war.

“It takes a lot of creativity,” said Wilson, a former gourmet chef. “There are more and more people carving in different ways with different tools. I do more 3-D pieces. I think it’s something that is growing and progressing.”

Arensberg said he has been carving pumpkins for a decade. In that time he said each sculptor changes their profession by the season, as autumn is reserved for pumpkins.

Like Wilson, Arensberg said he has a different style when it comes to carving.

“I’m a builder. I refer to it as drop-out engineering,” he said, scalpel in hand. “We went and started school in engineering. I like to build, but it’s just that little random stuff that’s more my style. I’m not the best carver, but I like to come up with new ideas like these bombs as accessories.”

Jonathon Michaels of Cincinnati made some silly-faced pumpkins to go along with a buzzard he had made earlier.

With a collage of more than two dozen utensils, Michaels used clay-carving ribbon tools – which vary in size, but all accomplish the end goal.

Most of the time, Michaels walks through a pumpkin patch and sees ones that are funky-looking and bent over. These ones hold death-defying marks and folds that resemble a face.

Something Michaels said people might not know when it comes to pumpkins is they are essentially a large sponge.

“Once it dries out you can replenish it by letting it soak in water,” he said. “You can make your pumpkins last a lot longer than you would think.”

Shannon Gerasimchik said it takes him up to three hours to carve his pumpkins, though some can do it faster.

When he chooses a pumpkin, Gerasimchik said, he goes for one that is heavy and has a healthy stalk. If the stalk is green, then the stalk is still giving nutrients to the pumpkin.

“I love being able to use my creativity,” Gerasimchik said. When coming up with an idea, Gerasimchik said things can change when you start to cut into a pumpkin. “I saw a fat face in this one and that’s what I’m going with it. It can be hit or miss. Sometimes you can have an idea in mind and make it come to life.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 29, 2015)

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