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story.lead_photo.caption Photo Courtesy Silver Dollar City One of the giant "icons" that will greet visitors to Pumpkin Nights is a cat, which Silver Dollar City staffers have nicknamed Felicia.

When Silver Dollar City started planning its new fall event, there were several things the designers knew it would NOT be.

"We didn't want it to be anything that even remotely resembled Halloween," begins Kelly Eutsler, who manages the theme park's visual team. And that meant "no fangs, no blood -- and nothing that isn't smiling at you. Even our 18-foot spider is the happiest spider you'll ever see!"

FAQ

Craft Days & Pumpkin Nights

WHEN — 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays & Sundays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays; 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays, through Oct. 26

WHERE — Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.

COST — $61-$71; $50 all ages after 5 p.m.

INFO — silverdollarcity.com

Actually, the new festival came together in two separate segments -- day and night, as it were. Craft Days -- nothing new to Silver Dollar City -- includes juried craftsmen and women creating unique pieces from hand-crafted jewelry to knives, baskets and wearable art. A new Makers' Market in the Frisco Building features a variety of craftsmen throughout the festival, including the popular trends of vintage decor, embroidery pieces, heirloom rugs, crafted family signs and customized baby accessories.

"'Makers' is a new term for what we've referred to as 'craftsmen' for 60 years," says Brad Thomas, president of Silver Dollar City Attractions, chuckling. "Americans are falling back in love with handcrafted items, oddly enough because marketplaces available on the internet have allowed artisans to thrive in interesting ways. So with this resurgence of a handcrafted American look and feel, we're very excited about Craft Days."

But when the sun goes down, everything in the park takes on a glow for Pumpkin Nights -- and much of that glow is in the shape of autumn icons, the spider being just one of many, Eutsler says.

"There's a nearly 30-foot tall pumpkin greeter that is the first icon you'll see," she explains. "But as you walk down Valley Road, there's a candymaker made of pumpkins in front of the candy shop and a glass artisan in front of the glass shop and a steampunk figure at Time Traveler," Thomas picks up the story. "There are more than a dozen sculptures from 6 to 26 feet tall," Eutsler enthuses. And that's not to mention the 10,000-plus pumpkins, both real ones left uncarved and synthetic carved ones that Eutsler swears look real. There's even a master pumpkin carver, Barry Brown from Denver, whose masterpieces have been seen around the world.

"When we decided we were going to do this, of course we wanted it to be amazing and over the top," Eutsler says. "And it had to be fun and engaging and great for the 2-year-olds and wonderful for Grandma and Grandpa.

"The challenge is what do we do that's going to make people want to come here?," Eutsler muses. "They've got to see something they can't see anywhere else and experience things they can't experience anywhere else."

In addition to the thousands of pumpkins and the baker's dozen of icons, Eutsler says the "hundreds and hundreds" of uplightings "completely transform the park. "The buildings aren't trimmed like they are at Christmas," she elaborates. "Instead, they glow."

Of course, a theme park is not transformed in a day -- but it happens almost that fast!

"We started on Sept. 9, when we went back into a five-day schedule," Eutsler says. "Collectively, we had decided we would wait until after Labor Day, but a lot had to be done, a lot of heavy equipment had to be brought in, so it was really a balancing act. We started utilizing our 'dark days' when the park was closed to put things in place, starting at the bottom end of the park and working our way up, then holding on the square until the last minute. We had folks working 14- and 15-hour days."

But driving through the park at night, Eutsler knows it's all worth it.

"We fabricated a pumpkin house, eight feet tall, a metal frame filled with real pumpkins, and it's one of my favorite things," she says. "I love when all of the individual elements come together and you see it all come on, and think 'Wow. This is so cool! This is going to be awesome.'

"We're all kids at heart, you know."

Photo Courtesy Silver Dollar City Everything about Pumpkin Nights, the new fall festival at Silver Dollar City, is intended to make patrons smile. Even the 18-foot spider is the happiest spider you'll ever see.

NAN What's Up on 10/06/2019

Print Headline: It's Fall, Y'all!

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