DANVILLE -- With the return of a popular display after a one-year hiatus, it's "All hail the mighty pumpkin (patch)!" at the 2012 Danville Fall Crafts Festival on Oct. 20 and 21.
More than 1,000 glass pumpkins, ranging from two inches in diameter to the massive 12-inchers made by exhibit coordinator Gigi Erickson, will fill carts and baskets in the colorful display.
"I'm trying to make it more unique," said Erickson, of Union City. "In years past, we've had them sitting on the ground, but I think it's too much to look at when they're spread all over. I'm clustering them so people can easily find the styles they like."
Her artist's eye, wizened from 22 years devoted to hand-sculpting hot glass creations and stained glass windows, has refined the arrangement, and she was the one to select the invited pumpkin artists.
"I invited people in the area I knew who have decent work. Everyone who makes pumpkins makes them differently," she said.
How different can they be? As it turns out, wildly different.
"Well, there's all shapes and colors and stem treatments," Erickson began. "And there's textures, technique -- a huge variety."
Prices begin at $25 for mini-kins, then climb the scale to $4,000 to 5,000 for the largest pumpkins made with the most expensive materials.
"The number of colors layered onto a sizable piece can boost the price," she said.
The cage mold method Erickson uses involves blowing through a tube, waiting for the hot blown glass to expand into the mold's voids, removing and inverting the pumpkin for shaping, establishing the neck and then creating a stem. Occasionally, she adds a decorative squash blossom flower.
It sounds simple, until she describes the pumpkin's 2,100-degree temperature and the 960-degree oven.
"It takes about 18 hours to cool," she said.
Because many glass artists develop their style beyond the simplest approach, there's also a mini-furnace improbably named "the glory hole." Used when rolling "frits" for added texturing (little pebbles of glass in different colors), or when creating from "color bark" (chunks of colored glass rods), Erickson says the glass "can rapidly be heated hotter so it's melty hot" in the mini-furnace's mix of oxygen and natural gas.
One thing Erickson can't explain is the public's fascination with glass pumpkins.
"Initially, I thought this (interest) would die out, but it hasn't. One woman came to me and said she has a collection of 300. It's a phenomenon I don't understand, but a lot of people love it. It's a fever that's caught on."
A glass pumpkin patch she started in Los Gatos raised $75,000 in two days at the inaugural event. Ten years later, in 2011, $150,000 was raised, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to Los Gatos High School.
"I like to benefit someone else," Erickson says. "This is a great year to help schools."
Ten percent of the Danville pumpkin patch proceeds will benefit San Ramon Valley High School.
Beyond the pumpkin patch, there will be no shortage of attractions at the Danville Fall Crafts Festival.
More than 200 artisans will offer ceramic, fiber, wood, leather, metal, photographic, painted and mixed-media creations. Following the annual Halloween Costume Parade on Oct. 20, kids and their parents can pump up their blood sugar levels by trick-or-treating along Hartz Avenue.
New to the festival will be a car show, made all the more pleasurable by the acoustics. Mary Spalding, of San Francisco's Steel Jam, and Laura Mallon, whose marimba ensemble makes wood sing and causes people to dance in the streets, will add musical appeal.
And no festival would be complete without food and drink. For adults, the Beverage Garden has wine and microbrews. Hungry festivalgoers of any age can indulge in everything from teriyaki chicken on a stick to kettle corn to frozen yogurt and sweet potato pies. Even dogs will not go away hungry, with Luckydogs Bakery's organic dog biscuits.
Admission and parking will be free.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 20-21
Where: Hartz Avenue, downtown Danville
Details: Visit www.mlaproductions.com or call 925-837-4400.
Activities: Trick-or-treating, Halloween costume parade at 10 a.m. Saturday