ome people think of Halloween linked with the Great Pumpkin. Rick Scalf thinks of it in terms of simply great pumpkins.

As in 300 or more in all their gap-toothed glory inside FairOaks Mall on 25th Street.

He said he fully expects to look out Saturday and see a pumpkin patchwork of creativity.

Scary jack-o-lanterns. Silly ones. Serene examples, too.

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The free annual Night of a Thousand Jacks fundraiser from 3 to 9 p.m. expects to include all of that and more. The event that attracted an estimated record 4,000 people last year could repeat that draw if the sun smiles a bit like the jacks.

“We just had perfect, let’s-get-out-and-do-something weather,” said Scalf, community outreach coordinator for Columbus Advocates For Children (CASA), which benefits through $5-per-jack-o-lantern fees or $50 per pumpkin patch, and also from the public’s dollar votes on the best jack.

People can vote in person or online at

Last year’s gathering generated a record of more than $35,000, but Scalf acknowledged that there’s room to carve out an ever bigger cool ghoul of a night this year.

This year’s event was moved to FairOaks Mall on 25th Street because of the potential for inclement weather outdoors.

Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech robotics students hope to expand their building of what Scalf called “creepy crawlers” to add to the proceedings.

Columbus North High School cheerleading coach Sarah Frasier said her squad loves working with youngsters on activities such as pumpkin bowling and bounce houses. Plus, the girls carve a patch of pumpkins each year to represent some element of their squad.

“This is one of the community service projects they’re very passionate about,” Frasier said. “And they love the idea of helping raise money and awareness for CASA. They really look forward to this every year.”

Other activities and games include a witch hat ring toss, pumpkin skeeball, Halloween bean-bag toss and pumpkin pong, organizers said. Plus, a group called the 501st Legion will impersonate a mix of Star Wars characters for photos and general fun.

Columbus pumpkin carver extraordinaire Mark Bush, who sometimes has decorated his lawn with more than 100 jack-o-lanterns, will carve a 500-pound pumpkin on site about half the day for those wishing to see a freaky face emerge right before their eyes. He will work alongside buddy David Jones. Last year, the pair created a fire-breathing dragon.

This year, using a military theme, Bush said the details must remain, well, classified.

“We don’t just carve and sculpt,” Bush said. “We add a little artistic flair. And the kids get pretty excited.”

Oh what a night (of jack-o-lanterns)

What: Annual Night of a Thousand Jacks fundraiser for Columbus’ Advocates For Children. Featuring children’s games, live animal displays, free costume contests, music, concessions and more, including a display of hundreds of jack-o’-lanterns created by teams of local artists.

When: 3 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

Where: 433 Fourth Street and the surrounding area downtown.

Admission: Free.

Information: or Night of a Thousand Jacks Facebook page.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.