Westerville Parks and Recreation finds bright spot in beloved event amid pandemic

pumpkins making an octopus

The Great Westerville Pumpkin Glow will continue through Nov. 1 and will take place from 7-11 p.m. at Heritage Park. Credit: Courtesy of Randy Auler

After a successful start in 2019, the Great Westerville Pumpkin Glow has returned with a new kind of experience. 

Hosted by the Westerville Parks and Recreation, the Great Westerville Pumpkin Glow kicked off Oct. 21 and will continue through Sunday. The event is held at Heritage Park and features a drive-thru trail lined with thousands of glowing carved pumpkins, according to the program’s website. 

Randy Auler, director of the Westerville Parks and Recreation, said the first Pumpkin Glow was a five-day event that included a half-mile walking trail. He said the change from having a walking trail to a drive-thru was made to adhere to social distancing guidelines and ensure the safety of patrons. 

“Last year we had three- to five-thousand carved pumpkins etched into designs and we had scenes,” Auler said. “It was a huge success. We had over 12,000 people from 82 counties in the state of Ohio and (visitors from) six different states attend the event last year. So we had planned to do that again this year, and then COVID hit and we had to pivot.” 

Auler said the Westerville Parks and Recreation is thrilled to be able to provide Pumpkin Glow to the community. 

“We’ve had people come through from Kentucky, Indiana and Chicago, so it’s getting to be more of a central Ohio draw, and we’re excited about that,” Auler said. “It’s cool to see all of the positive comments, and when people see the quality of the display, they’re just very impressed.” 

Terri Nalli, a resident from Cambridge, Ohio, said she heard about the Pumpkin Glow from friends in the area and made the trip down with her 5-year-old daughter to see the display Oct. 22. 

“An array of lit-up pumpkins, it’s something that I personally have never seen in my life,” Nalli said. “It was just a very magical experience and the pumpkins themselves were very — it looked very artistic, like it took somebody a long time to do them.” 

Nalli did not attend the event in 2019, so she was unable to compare it to this year, but she said her friends spoke glowingly about this year’s experience.

“They said that compared to last year, this was out of the park for a virtual type of drive-thru, that the parks and rec did an amazing job for what they could do now with COVID and all,” Nalli said. 

Nalli said she and her daughter enjoyed the show and found some of the larger pumpkins to be her favorite, with designs including a jellyfish and an octopus. 

One particular section even made Nalli feel like she was in a movie, she said. 

“Under this row of lights that was like a bridge, they had all these lit up mushrooms with a caterpillar, and it kind of felt like you were in almost like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ My daughter was definitely freaking out,” Nalli said.

The Great Westerville Pumpkin Glow will continue through Sunday and will take place from 7-11 p.m. at Heritage Park, located at 60 N. Cleveland Ave. Tickets cost $15 for each vehicle and must be purchased in advance, according to the program’s website.

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