Presidential Pumpkins

Pumpkins carved to look like Ross Perot, Bill Clinton and George H W Bush during 1992 election by Paul Barker

During the month leading up to the 1992 presidential election, the Lincolnwood Town Center shopping mall in Skokie, Illinois, asked me to carve cartoon likenesses of the three candidates: the Republican incumbent, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton for the Democrats, and the Independent H. Ross Perot.

What made the job exceedingly weird but fun was that they wanted me to carve the likenesses into three prize-winning giant pumpkins they had acquired, weighing 400 to 500 pounds each. Who could pass that up?

They approved my sketches and set me up on a straw-covered stage in the atrium. The carving took about five days using serrated knives, chisels, markers, latex paint and a saber saw. I enjoyed the banter with the passing public.

Finally, shoppers were asked to vote on their choice of pumpkins, and the results were announced the day before the election. During the night before the election, the Bush pumpkin sagged and toppled to the floor, splatting into a pile of orange slime, seeds and pieces, and the candidate ‘Vegete-bill Clinton’ won the vote. Who would have thought that giant vegetable surrogates could have such powerful predictive capabilities?! For the next national election, maybe I’ll try it with turnips.

Mall competition carving pumpkins to look like presidential candidates, winner Paul Barker of Googleplex Murals