Project Pumpkin: Carrying on tradition

The sky was overcast, but students’ spirits were high as Winston-Salem children arrived on campus ready to delight in candy, crafts and carnival games at the 26th annual Project Pumpkin.

“Project Pumpkin shows Winston-Salem that Wake Forest students are involved in this community,” Dianne Uwayo, a senior sociology major from Greensboro, N.C. said.

More than 450 student volunteers welcomed children from nearly 25 local agencies to campus Wednesday afternoon for Project Pumpkin, Wake Forest’s annual student-run Halloween festival. Once the children arrived, costumed volunteer escorts led eager trick-or-treaters around Hearn Plaza to carnival booths sponsored by over 80 different student organizations and academic departments. The kids happily raced from booth to booth determined to collect as much candy as possible.

“It’s a way for the community to interact with Wake Forest students,” Victoria Lawton, a senior sociology major said. “They get to see the possibilities that college has to offer.”

Planning a tradition

During her first year at Wake Forest, Uwayo wanted to explore her passion for community service and volunteering with children.

“I knew I wanted to get involved with an organization on campus that worked with kids,” she said.

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Uwayo first worked with Project Pumpkin as a costumed escort. She continued to get involved through the kids crafts committee, which visits the agencies prior to the festival and works with the children to make decorations. After chairing the kids crafts committee her junior year, she was named ‘Head Pumpkin’ of the festival for her senior year. As Head Pumpkin, she oversees six committees and relies on them to help her plan Project Pumpkin. It takes nearly a year to pull off.

“It’s one event that gets us all together in different capacities,” Uwayo said. “It brings out the strengths of the students and allows them to be involved with different aspects of event planning.”

This year’s festival theme was “Space Jam,” based on the 1996 Looney Tunes movie of the same name featuring basketball great Michael Jordan. For Lawton, as this year’s publicity chair, the “Space Jam” theme was an obvious choice because of the excitement over new basketball coach Danny Manning and the enduring (or cross-generational) appeal of iconic cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny.

“Looney Tunes has such universal characters and imagery,” Lawton said.

An enduring legacy

Project Pumpkin has been going strong since its founding by Wake Forest students in 1989. Carrying on the tradition, however, depends on continued student involvement.

“I’m excited for the first-years to get involved,” Lawton said. “They ensure that Project Pumpkin stays around.”

Uwayo has high hopes for the first-year volunteers as well, especially as they see how Project Pumpkin impacts Winston-Salem as a whole.

“Project Pumpkin a way to get even more involved with the community,” she said. “It makes students realize that there is a vibrant community right outside our doors.”

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