Pam East said it all started when she couldn’t choose one pumpkin for her then 4-year-old daughter.
On a visit to a pumpkin patch in 1989, East brought home 20 pumpkins instead of one, but didn’t want to leave them uncarved.
After obtaining a kit on how to carve pumpkins, a tradition was born.
“It took off from there,” she said.
It took off to the point where travelers descend on the Dam Site Inn in Pellston, Michigan, to not just dine on chicken dinners, but view incredible pumpkin designs in the fall.
East and her husband Ray owned the popular restaurant that some dub as the “Frankenmuth of the North” from 1992 until handing the reigns to daughter Olivia and her husband Steven Brinks in 2021.
Each year, Pam East carves what she says is between 80 and 200 pumpkins for the restaurant, and the designs vary from celebrity faces to Halloween-themed carvings.
Examples of celebrity faces she has carved include: Eddie Murphy, Sylvester Stallone, Julia Roberts, Al Pacino, Alice Cooper, Scarlet Johannson and Daniel Craig.
“I love creating the celebrity faces most of all because I never know if they will turn out until I’m done and light the pumpkin,” she said.
East, who has carved professionally for Jagermeister and Country Living Magazines, said each pumpkin can take an hour or two to complete, depending on whether it’s shaved or carved right through.
She uses pumpkin master saws, clay tools and xacto blades.
“I either find a pumpkin pattern I like, or a photograph of a person and print out two copies,” she said. “One copy is pinned to the pumpkin with thumbtacks, the other is for reference. I cut through the paper pinned to the pumpkin with an xacto blade and then remove the paper. I then cut and shave according to the lines.”
For additional photos of pumpkin carvings, visit the Dam Site Inn’s Facebook page.
We want to see your pumpkin carvings! Click here to share your photo or other favorite Halloween moment.