Halloween’s about both the scary and the sweet

Kristi O’Harran

Kristi’s Notebook

Think of children in brightly colored mittens scampering over green fields scooping up just the right pumpkin patch gourd.

Isn’t that a lovely picture? I guess it is, but I never drove my children to a pumpkin patch to pick out a special orange ball.

My kids thought pumpkins, just like Christmas trees, came from the front of a grocery store.

In my defense, though carving the pumpkin was a slapdash affair, my kids had the best costumes on the block. I spent weeks sewing, gluing sequins, painting, motorizing and customizing tramps, witches, ghosts and aliens.

Isn’t it nice when someone has a special connection to a holiday? John Marzolf, 51, makes Halloween a fantasy-filled but nonspooky occasion for children and adults alike.

Saturday, more than 35 guests will arrive at Marzolf’s ranch near Machias. I’ll give you an idea how great a place it is: You can go right up and pet Raleigh and Gary. Those are two bulls who graze in a field dotted with a dozen cows, two dogs and a cat.

"Everybody likes everybody here," Marzolf said. "We have no use for anyone who doesn’t like anyone."

Beside the pasture you see a hillside of green and orange pumpkins of all sizes. Step around, take a closer look, and you’ll see names imbedded into each sphere, like Tyler, Paige and Hannah.

Who made the pumpkins grow with special names that look like part of the shell?

" tell the children I carve their names on a seed," Marzolf said. "I plant the seed and see if it grows."

Old cynics know that isn’t how it happens, but children are delighted to think their name sprang from a seed. Marzolf wouldn’t tell me how he gets names etched on the sides of the pumpkins like pretty carvings on Fenton bowls.

He said he doesn’t want to give away all of his secrets. He said that with a wink that reminded me of another jolly person who makes holidays shine.

When Marzolf’s son bought a house nearby, Jonc brought material from a compost pile out to his parent’s ranch. Four pumpkins grew from the heap. Little Halloween visitors that year, Riley, Jessie and Meghan, all picked a pumpkin. Marzolf noticed one had a pretty scar that grew deep in the skin of the sphere. That’s when he perfected the theme of the annual party.

He’ll make spaghetti, and Jon will cook his famous chili. Gramma Shirley gets to find her orange ball. Adult friends Rick and April have a pumpkin. A friend named Jan, 55, gets excited each year.

Next year, there will be an honored guest. The Marzolfs are expecting their first grandchild in a few days. Soon-to-be Grandpa Marzolf doesn’t know if it’s going to be a boy or a girl.

If it’s a girl, one of next year’s pumpkins will read "Hannah Grace."

By day, Marzolf is a custom meat cutter and also is a first-call attendant for a funeral home. He rents out bulls Raleigh and Gary. You can guess what that’s all about. This city girl didn’t need any more information about the bull service.

For fun, Marzolf and his wife make a couple of trips each year to see their daughter, Erin, in Oklahoma. She spent a summer volunteering in the Midwest, stayed for college and now makes her home there.

Erin received a pumpkin in the mail with her name on it.

Marzolf said it cost $16 to post.

He didn’t mind one bit.

"I do this because it makes kids happy," he said. "I haven’t grown up yet."

Marzolf said it’s important that adults do little things for children.

As wonderful as Saturday’s party will be, there is more coming up. There will be a family Thanksgiving gathering, but Christmas is really the day he loves.

One can only imagine special touches he brings to December.

Talk to us

More in Local News

FILE - A sign hangs at a Taco Bell on May 23, 2014, in Mount Lebanon, Pa. Declaring a mission to liberate "Taco Tuesday" for all, Taco Bell asked U.S. regulators Tuesday, May 16, 2023, to force Wyoming-based Taco John's to abandon its longstanding claim to the trademark. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Hepatitis A confirmed in Taco Bell worker in Everett, Lake Stevens

The health department sent out a public alert for diners at two Taco Bells on May 22 or 23.

VOLLI’s Director of Food & Beverage Kevin Aiello outside of the business on Friday, May 19, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Coming soon to Marysville: indoor pickleball, games, drinks

“We’re very confident this will be not just a hit, but a smash hit,” says co-owner Allan Jones, who is in the fun industry.

Detectives: Unresponsive baby was exposed to fentanyl at Everett hotel

An 11-month-old boy lost consciousness Tuesday afternoon. Later, the infant and a twin sibling both tested positive for fentanyl.

Cassie Franklin (left) and Nick Harper (right)
Report: No wrongdoing in Everett mayor’s romance with deputy mayor

An attorney hired by the city found no misuse of public funds. Texts between the two last year, however, were not saved on their personal phones.

Firearm discovered by TSA officers at Paine Field Thursday morning, May 11, 2023, during routine X-ray screening at the security checkpoint. (Transportation Security Administration)
3 guns caught by TSA at Paine Field this month — all loaded

Simple travel advice: Unpack before you pack to make sure there’s not a gun in your carry-on.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
To beat the rush this Memorial Day weekend, go early or late

AAA projects busy airports, ferries and roads over the holiday weekend this year, though still below pre-pandemic counts.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Troopers: DUI crash leaves 1 in critical condition in Maltby

A drunken driver, 34, was arrested after her pickup rear-ended another truck late Tuesday, injuring a Snohomish man, 28.

Housing Hope CEO Donna Moulton raises her hand in celebration of the groundbreaking of the Housing Hope Madrona Highlands on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$30M affordable housing project to start construction soon in Edmonds

Once built, dozens of families who are either homeless or in poverty will move in and receive social and work services.

A south-facing view of the proposed site for a new mental health facility on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, near 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW north of Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
County Council OK’s Stanwood behavioral health center

After an unsuccessful appeal to block it, the Tulalip Tribes are now on the cusp of building the 32-bed center in farmland.

Most Read