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Smash, bash, splat: Pumpkins get pummeled before heading to compost

Ernie Ratowitz of Flossmoor has been volunteering at the Pumpkin Smash event sponsored by the Chicago Southland Green Committee for about five years. What brought him back to Coyote Run Golf Course on Nov. 4 to help again was the opportunity to contribute to a good cause and to see kids have fun obliterating their old jack o’ lanterns.

(Eric Crump photos and video/H-F Chronicle)
Ernie Ratowitz works at Pumpkin Smash.

“It seems like a decent thing to do,” he said. “It’s kind of fun, too. You get a lot of people, kids and everything, get to do things with pumpkins that they can’t normally do at home.”

Madelyn Arellano was the first to use the lift drop method of destroying a pumpkin. She couldn’t go up in the lift, but volunteer Dave Ward took her pumpkin up high for her and let it go.

“I wanted to see how high they can go and see how many pieces that it would go in when they smash it,” she said. She was happy with the result.

Coordinator Carrie Malfeo agreed that the fun was what attracted families to the event. She directed new arrivals to the various methods of pumpkin pummeling: A sledge hammer for smashing, a sling for flinging and a lift truck for dropping the old pumpkins from a height.

Amid the joy of destruction, though, was an opportunity to learn some important lessons.

“Pumpkin smash is a great way to learn about composting and the importance of keeping food waste out of landfills that create methane,” Malfeo said. “Pumpkin Smash is a fun way of doing it and learn about how to build home composting.”

Pumpkin remains were destined to be delivered by Homewood Disposal to Possibility Place Nursery in Monee to be composted and used as a soil amendment.

Malfeo also cautioned against simply throwing old pumpkins away.

“One thing a lot of people think about is just throwing pumpkins in forest preserves,” she said. “Actually, that is illegal; it’s littering.”

A poster at the event included additional reasons to avoid pumpkin dumping. The pumpkin remains can smother native plants, are not suitable food sources for wild animals and can contribute to the spread of disease in wildlife populations.

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