JOHN DAY - What's the secret to carving a pumpkin? "It takes time," Kylee Temple said, "and you have to be careful not to cut yourself."
On the day before Halloween, it was a reasonable question, and one place to look for the answer was on Main Street, at John Day Floral, where Kylee had entered a pumpkin-carving contest against about a dozen other Halloween artists.
The 7-year-old pondered the question for another moment, and then said, "It takes a face to make a pumpkin."
Well, yes, and the more lopsided the grin, or spooky the eyes, the better the face. The carving was done at home, and the results were brought to the flower shop.
The pumpkins were lined up along the decorated wooden porch rail in front of the flower shop, looking like mutant orange people who had lost their bodies, and now their heads were on display by smiling children.
There was one orange, bumpy countenance that had a thick slice above its squared eyebrows.
"I made a forehead with my imagination," said Chenise Clark, who was dressed in a costume that included camouflage face paint.
Her design was from a stencil, a tool used by most of the pumpkin-makeover artists, but the addition of the big-slice forehead caught the attention of the judges.
"We looked for originality," Todd Mayo said.
It fell to Mayo and fellow judge Don Gabbard, both firefighters for Grayback Forestry Inc. in Canyon City, to pick the No. 1 great pumpkin.
The pair have likely faced fires that were an easier task.
They also had to consider the sharp-toothed smile of Kya Smith's pumpkin; Audra Clark's cool cat, probably black anywhere else but on a pumpkin; and Tomica Long's big-mouthed beast with a triangle eye.
Dereke Clark's pumpkin had "Boo" carved on the back of its head, and he knew a couple of pumpkin-carving secrets.
"Have dad draw a face on it first," Dereke said. "And never cut the top straight, because that keeps the lid on."
Elijah Humbird, 5, and his brother, Nolan, 11, arrived with their pumpkins after the main judging, but their work was appreciated by at least one onlooker, who particularly liked Elijah's work on a miniature pumpkin.
"I drew it myself," Elijah said.
Other pumpkin artists were Samantha Brock, Miranda Goit, Matika Long, Sasha Juarez and Alicia Juarez.
In the end, the judges named Chenise's pumpkin with the prominent forehead as the best.
Chenise's work earned her a bouquet of flowers and a certificate for two large, two-topping pizzas from The Dirty Shame.
"Cheese," she said.
An effort was made to give every artist a prize, and Joni Bebb, owner of John Day Floral, did a lot "ooing and ahhing" as she led each contestant into the shop to accept their reward.
"It's all about the kids and having fun," said Catrina Smith, who helped organize the event, and who you might have seen behind the counter Ace Hardware.
Businesses that donated prizes were McDonald's, Kings Discount, Radio Shack, Figaros, Prime Time Video, John Day Video, Pepsi-Cola, Coke-Cola, Silver Spur, The Dirty Shame, Grubsteak, Dairy Queen, El Teulito and Scissor Happy.
Pumpkins were available at Chester's Thiftway and at a patch at the Ox Bow Ranch, Prairie City.