Family’s annual pumpkin display goes prehistoric with Flintstones theme
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent October 26, 2012 3:36PM
John Barenie scoops out a pumpkin that will have a Fred Flintstone carving at his parents' home on Miller Street in Griffith, Ind. Friday October 26, 2012. The Barenie family has been creating giant pumpkins scenes since 1999. The pumpkins, with this year's theme of the Flintstones, will be lit in the evenings Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and until they last. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
If you go
The Barenie family expects to have carved pumpkins lit by Saturday night with the full display complete by Sunday. The home is at 917 E. Miller St. in Griffith. The lighted display will be up through Halloween.
Updated: November 28, 2012 6:07AM
GRIFFITH — John Barenie uses a garden hoe to scrape seeds and guts out of an almost 5-foot tall pumpkin Friday in the front yard of his Griffith home.
His arms are completely outstretched and his head half buried in the giant gourd as he works to clean it out so another family member can start carving.
The pumpkin is propped on its side for use in the Barenie family’s annual giant pumpkin display. This particular gourd is the 2012 Indiana State Fair title holder weighing in at 1,293 pounds. It is Barenie’s second win in a row after taking the title the first year the state had the competition in 2002. He also holds the state record for his 2011 win with a 1,308-pound behemoth.
Four other giant gourds weighing in at 1,233 pounds, 900 pounds, 838 pounds and 819 pounds are highlights of this year’s Flintstones-themed exhibit. The 819-pounder took first place in this year’s Lake County Fair.
Smaller pumpkins, the 200- to 700-pound variety, fill in a display that captures characters like Fred, Wilma, Bam Bam, Dino, and even the prehistoric family’s frightening neighbors, the Gruesomes. A hand-constructed stone quarry backdrop and roof for the carved house help finish off the almost all-pumpkin creation.
“We’re all veterans here,” said Carolyn Belcher of Griffith, Barenie’s sister. Carolyn was carving a pumpkin her husband, Lewis, had gutted earlier in the day next to her niece Claire Barenie, also of Griffith, who was carving out a different pumpkin.
Motorists slowed their vehicles to watch as they drove by the home.
Bob Berger, of Merrillville, and Paul Weber, of Winfield, came up to the house to get a better look at the family members working.
“I’ve never been here while they were carving,” Berger said, adding he used to take his children to see the giant pumpkins when they were at home, now he takes nieces and nephews and friends’ children.
“Even the teenagers like it. If they haven’t seen it they are always like ‘wow,’ ” Berger said.
Weber is hoping for a little wow of his own. He is a fellow pumpkin-growing enthusiast and has managed to grow a couple pumpkins that have earned him a fifth and a sixth place in the Lake County Fair. Next season, he will plant a few of Barenie’s seeds.
“My biggest was 110 pounds,” Berger said. He is confident the seeds that produced some of the monsters the family was carving will help him grow a more impressive pumpkin.
“With all the genetics that will help,” he said.
Genetics are important, but weather plays a role as well. Both Barenie and his sister Judy, who also grows giant pumpkins at her nearby home, said this was a rough year for pumpkins. The extreme heat meant a lot of later pollinating pumpkins, the smaller 100- to 200-pound variety, did not pollinate.
“I had a bad year this year,” Judy said. Her most impressive pumpkins came in the 300- to 400-pound range keeping her out of the competitions.
“At least we could use them in the Halloween display,” she said.