It’s almost fall, y’all, and that means a full lineup of Halloween-themed programming is about to hit our TVs.
Included in that is a new show, "Outrageous Pumpkins," which will premiere on the Food Network on Sunday with an Austinite among its contestants.
Griffon Ramsey, a professional chainsaw artist, is one of seven expert carvers who will be featured in the new four-part series. Ramsey, who started pumpkin sculpting as a child and who primarily works with wood, said the experience of competing on the show was "very intense."
"I was definitely up against some amazing pumpkin carvers, and that was cool," Ramsey said. "I’ve always loved Halloween and spooky things, creepy things, and there’s this nostalgic feeling about pumpkin carving. My dad used to carve three-dimensional pumpkins when I was a kid, and I guess I’ve always been secretly competing with him."
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Ramsey said before the Food Network show she had been hired only for one paid pumpkin gig — she created a carved pumpkin that was used to promote the popular show "Stranger Things." She said the "Stranger Things" pumpkin, plus her robust social media presence, likely prompted the Food Network to reach out.
"I wasn’t really expecting an opportunity to come from the pumpkin world, and I had to kind of scramble to prepare myself for it. It happened really quickly," she said. "I had like a week’s notice before I was on a plane going to compete."
The show, which was shot last November on a farm in New York, is hosted by actress Alyson Hannigan and judged by puppeteer and artist Terri Hardin and master pumpkin carver Ray Villafane. In it, contestants compete for a $25,000 prize.
"The carving world in general — ice, wood and pumpkin — there are all these weirdos and really interesting people who have somehow managed to create a career out of weird, fringe things," she said. "They’re brave, typically, quirky, imaginative, entrepreneurial and sort of like engineers sometimes. It’s a pretty interesting group of people. It’s fun jumping into a new subculture with pumpkin carving."
Each episode will feature two challenges that "test their creativity and pumpkin prowess as they sculpt gravity-defying scenes that celebrate Halloween," according to the Food Network. In the first episode, "7 Deadly Jack-o'-Lanterns," contestants will be tasked with mastering the classic Halloween jack-o'-lantern and incorporating a dynamic use of light.
"The challenges were really extreme. It was kind of like being thrown in the deep end," Ramsey said. "There were special effects, or we were using multiple pumpkins sometimes. I had to learn a lot."
Being a professional carver, Ramsey said, is a wonderful way to express yourself creatively.
"It does make you feel really powerful, not just to get over the fear of holding the saw but also being able to turn a big solid object like a log into whatever my idea was in a short amount of time. For an artist, I hadn’t ever had direct access to manifestation like that," she said. "It’s cathartic. It’s just fun."
So how does she feel about the show coming out on Sunday?
"I’m kind of nervous. I’m kind of feeling shy right now. I’m excited, though," she said. "It’s going to be a really fun show. We all had a lot of fun together. I know we’re competing and everything, but carvers are really fun people and we like to get together and we bond a lot on these competitions. We usually are friends, too. We geek out on this stuff together. Was it stressful? Yes. Intense? Yes. But everyone had fun together, and that will come across in the show."
"Outrageous Pumpkins" premieres at 9 p.m. Sept. 20 on the Food Network. Learn more about the show at FoodNetwork.com. Follow Ramsey on Instagram @griffonramsey.