By Tequila Minsky
Late Saturday morning, Madelyn Wils, president of Hudson River Park Trust, stopped by the Pumpkin Smash at Chelsea Waterside Park, 11th Ave. and 23rd Street, her two dogs in tow.
When asked: In this time of the Pandemic, how do you feel about this outdoor event? Wils responded with a glint in her eyes, “If ever there was a time to give a wallop to something orange. Now is the time!” In the background, clanking pots and pans and car horns announced a historic moment— election results were in, Joe Biden garnered a majority of electoral votes. He is now, President-elect.
Given an aluminum bat and with much vigor Wils smashed the one of the season’s former décor— the third annual Pumpkin Smash was well underway.
The Pumpkin Smash offered children a chance at uncensored damage and parents opportunities to show off their mettle. Under watchful eyes, bats and sometimes hammers became the weapons of pumpkin destruction.
From Battery Park City, one family with two young daughters piled seven pumpkins into a cab to add their Halloween decorations to the accumulating Hudson River Park compost. The youngest daughter put smashing the pumpkin she had decorated off to the poignant last.
One young man gripping his bat, with a bit of bravado queried park staff: How many hits before it’ll smash, ten? His powerful strokes split that squash in seven hits!
In another form of smashing, a nearby open bed truck allowed children from on high to propel pumpkins onto the cement.
Up to five people in participating groups were allocated 15 minutes of smashing fun with monitored social distancing. Staff continuously ushered groups through during the four-hour event.
Since September, the Pumpkin Smash is the first and only in-person event held by Hudson River Park among its 50 public events, now broadcast on Facebook Live and Instagram.
“We’re so happy we can offer virtual programs for the community,” says Kira Levy, Director of Marketing and Events. “We’ve had more than 100,000 visitors.” Levy adds that virtual programming broadens the reach of the audience, now attending from all around the country and even South America. The silver lining from forced adaptation is that this sort of programming will continue to be a part of Hudson River Park outreach. On-demand reruns of the entire Park’s programs as well as upcoming events can be found at the website: www.hudsonriverpark.org.
The autumnal event follows the reopening of the compost site at Hudson River Park, which is currently the largest composting site in the city. While this year, it was somewhat limited, it still brought 1,000 pounds of pumpkins, now smashed, to add to the Park’s composting site. Last year, 2,000 pounds of pumpkins were smashed.
In 2019, in total, the Park collected approximately 86,000 pounds of food scraps from the local community— a 23 percent increase from 70,000 pounds collected in 2018. Combined with horticulture waste, the Park diverted a total of 450,000 pounds from landfills in 2019. Instead of food and plant waste slowly decomposing in landfills, the Park returns this organic matter to the earth and uses it to nourish plant bed.
Pumpkin Smash is a collaboration between Hudson River Park, the Horticulture River Project and Public Programs.