Pumpkin carving is usually just a fun Halloween activity, but for Ray Villafane the art of carving pumpkins has become his passion. It all started when he was an art teacher and one of his students brought in a pumpkin for him to carve.
“They liked it enough where they kept bringing in pumpkins every day and that fall I got quite a bit of practice,” he said. “And then that became a tradition in the school district.”
Villafane went on to become a commercial carver for Marvel and Food Network. Then last year he got together with the town of Carefree and dreamed up the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden.
“This we are absolutely overwhelmed with,” said mayor of Carefree, Les Peterson. “Ray is an excellent artist and has national and worldwide recognition, so we’re delighted to have him here.”
One of the highlights of the festival is a 400 pound pumpkin that Villafane will transform into one of his signature creations on October 28. But pumpkin’s are not the only thing he is transforming; Carefree is also welcoming a change.
“What we’re looking to do is change perceptions of people,” said Peterson. “That this is not a town for old people in God’s waiting room. That it is an artistic community.”
The biggest change of all is in the way Villafane sees the world. When he quit his job as a commercial carver, he decided to focus on only having fun. Then the success just came his way.
“Opportunities present themselves,” he said. “Creative ideas present themselves and then you begin to create your life instead of following what feels like you’re told to do.”