Gourd-geous Pumpkin carver makes a scene.
OXFORD - Todd M. Desautels of Oxford was 12 years old in 1988, when his life was changed forever by a pumpkin.
That year, John Reckner and his family hosted the first Pumpkin Spectacular at the Woodward School. Among the 185 carved gourds on display that year was one done by young Todd.
As the Reckners' Jack-o'-Lantern Spectacular has moved and grown into a monthlong event at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, so Mr. Desautels has grown as a pumpkin carver and artist, with dreams of more.
"I have never stopped carving pumpkins. My dream is a fusion of organic agriculture and art through festivals that celebrate both," he said.
His talent as an artist was highlighted earlier this month, when the Friends of the Oxford Animal Shelter Inc. announced that Mr. Desautels had won the Friends' logo contest.
Mary Adams, president of the nonprofit organization, said the committee charged with choosing a new logo was very impressed with Mr. Desautels' picture of a dog, cat, bird, turtle and rabbit cuddled together. "The image truly defines what our committee stands for: Working together to help each animal have a better quality of life while waiting for their forever homes."
Mr. Desautels said his goal is to work with area farmers, artists, pumpkin carvers and others "cooperatively, to help each other."
He was inspired by pumpkin carving to create his own company, Eleventh Hour Productions, and to hold a pumpkin fest in 2006 at a farm in Natick.
"There was a lot of opposition from neighbors because of our tremendous success that led to heavy traffic. I guess it was the wrong place to hold it, but we did prove to ourselves that we could do this," he said.
Managers of The Big E who saw his carving in Natick were so impressed that they asked Mr. Desautels to come work for them, which he has done ever since.
Elena Hovagimian, agriculture and education coordinator for The Big E and Eastern States Exposition, said, "Todd communicates with the public while carving for us. This year, he carved a farm scene onto a 500-pound pumpkin grown by the Dwelly family of Oakham. Todd did a great job. He is a talented pumpkin sculptor."
Mr. Desautels grew up just two houses from the original Jack-o'-Lantern Spectacular, and said he was inspired by what he saw there and at subsequent shows.
"The largest pumpkin I've carved was 1,100 pounds," he said.
He is working to acquire farmland or to lease space where he can grow his own pumpkins and other vegetables and fruits, where he can combine art and holistic, organic farming.
"I am fully committed to having an annual event with pumpkins, but there is so much more we want to do," he said.
He has reached out to the Cooperative Development Institute, based in Deerfield, which offers education, training and technical assistance to those interested in creating cooperative businesses.
"They are helping us understand business structure. We want to have multiple people invested in a shared common goal," Mr. Desautels said.
He does not want to create a fall carnival, but rather a series of harvest festivals and other events to celebrate the seasons, from spring strawberry and blueberry fests, followed by watermelon and pumpkin shows, to snow and ice-carving festivals.
Crafters and artists would be invited to participate and show their wares.
"We have people in Central and Western Massachusetts who want to do this year-round. Our successful show in Natick proved we can do this. We want to focus on sustainable agriculture and art, always with quality and craftsmanship," Mr. Desautels said.
For more information, visit wix.com/11thhourproductions/ pumpkins.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/CHRISTINE PETERSON
CUTLINE: (1) Todd M. Desautels of Oxford carves complex scenes on pumpkins. (2) In September, he carved an image of the Green Man on a 500 pound pumpkin at the Big E. (3) Todd M. Desautels of Oxford carves out the details of a scene sketched on a pumpkin.
T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON