Russ Leno’s mastery of pumpkin carving started as a way to entertain friends.

“Instead of just partying all the time, we would sit down and start carving,” Leno recalled. He’s taking that post-retirement hobby from his home in Olympia, Washington, to various fairs across the country.

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Leno carves about two pumpkins a day for his run at the Big Fresno Fair, turning the Halloween fruit (yes, it is a fruit) into art.

Carving Big Pumpkins

“Instead of just partying all the time, we would sit down and start carving.”Pumpkin carver Russ Leno

“I just like carving,” Leno answers about why he does it.

On this day, Leno used his tools to sculpt a scene of a duck landing in a pond. He says it fits the fair’s theme: “From the Sierra to the Sea.”

Leno likes to use large pumpkins, about 100 pounds. On the weekends, he carves massive gourds, spending both days working on a 500-pound or greater pumpkin.

He taught himself how to carve and sometimes uses pictures to inspire his creations. Other times, his designs come in dreams.

Creating the Art

Preparation is the key.

“You do a lot better carvings. I don’t try to wing it all the time,” Leno said.

Leno uses just four tools — a fillet knife, two clay molding tools, and a scraper. He usually skips a traditional step by not hollowing out the pumpkins.

While pumpkin carving isn’t quite a second career for the former engineer, he gets by.

“It pays my taxes,” Leno jokes.

His creations can go for $125-$700. The only downside is the art is temporary — lasting for about three days.

Fair Schedule

Catch Russ demonstrating his pumpkin carving in the Agriculture Building:

Monday-Friday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday, 2 p.m.-7 p.m.

For more, visit Russ’s Facebook.

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