The Great Pumpkin himself hardly could have risen from the patch to find a better home for Night of a Thousand Jacks last year.

Organizers of the extravaganza featuring a children’s costume contest, games, candy and jack-o-lanterns see the move to FairOaks Mall with sugary sweet gratitude — so much so that they’re making the former downtown outdoor event a permanent indoor one on 25th Street in Columbus.

That includes the next Halloween-oriented event from 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29.

Rick Scalf is community outreach coordinator for the local nonprofit Advocates For Children agency, which benefits from the Night of a Thousand Jacks fundraiser.

Story continues below gallery

Last year’s bash attended by an estimated 4,000 people raised $21,977 for the agency, second highest for the festivities that began in 2009. The Advocates organization provides volunteer advocates for children involved in cases of abuse or neglect.

Those advocates speak on behalf of a child’s best interests in those cases.

“It has worked out very well,” Scalf said of the new teaming with the mall. “It has become a really good partnership.”

Organizers say they loved the idea of being downtown. But the mall has allowed those submitting patches of carved jack-o-lanterns in a contest to store their completed creations in a locked area of the mall rather than outdoors in a parking lot downtown.

The mall also gives event organizers dedicated space for pre-event creation and carving, which will be Wednesday and Oct. 27 this year. Plus, the mall features easier and more ample parking for attendees, said Scalf — and the chance to turn down the lights to allow everyone a better chance to more easily see the illuminated jack-o-lanterns lining the FairOaks’ hallway.

And of course, shelter from the storm, such as last year when the event was moved 48 hours before a forecasted heavy fall thunderstorm, reigns as extremely significant.

“We were scrambling at the last minute last year (looking for a backup location),” said Angie Bowling, event co-chair with Lanell Christensen. “Now, with a huge space, it seems like we don’t have a worry in the world.”

Volunteer teens from Columbus North High School, Columbus East High School, Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech and Columbus Christian School run the games and distribute candy during the lighthearted festivities. C4 students have assisted by constructing elements to be used with youngsters’ game and also by baking cookies for children, Bowling said.

“I like the idea of teaching and allowing our youth to be involved and to give of their time,” she said.

Her daughter, Rachel Bowling, first conceived the idea for teams of people to carve 10-pumpkin jack-o-lanterns called patches. She also launched the idea for youngsters’ games — all part of her 2011 senior project.

“That changed our lives,” mom said of the ex-teen’s personal interest. “We had no idea of the needs of an organization such as Advocates for Children.”

The younger Bowling works in a family social services position today because her effort five years ago that allowed her to see the need of intervening on behalf of youngsters caught in a painful situation.

But the Night of a Thousand Jacks is intended first and foremost as a way to carve out loads of smiles and fun for youngsters. Toward that end, expert carvers Mark Bush and David Jones will be on hand as in years past to slice an oversized pumpkin into an on-the-spot work of art.

Plus, staff from the local Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators refuge will bring what it calls “creatures of the night” such as owls, hawks and ravens to display.

Scalf predicts this year’s crowd will top last year’s since the location is fixed, no matter what winds of change blow with Mother Nature.

The night can be a fright

What: Annual Night of a Thousand Jacks Halloween fundraiser to benefit Advocates For Children. Includes costume contests, games, candy and other activities.

When: 3 to 9 p.m. Oct. 29.

Where: FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St. in Columbus.

Admission: Free. Money is generated from entry fees for carved pumpkin patches and from public’s monetary votes for the best pumpkin patch. Winning team earns a $500 prize provided by Hilliard Lyons in Columbus.

Deadline for carved jack-o-lantern entries: Oct. 28.


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