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Carroll teacher showing pumpkin carving skills on Food Network

Century High School art teacher Frank Reaver, pictured here with jack-o-lanterns he carved in the likeness of a zombie, left, and the Night King from the television show "Game of Thrones" will be featured on the Food Network's Halloween Wars: Hayride of Horror.
Century High School art teacher Frank Reaver, pictured here with jack-o-lanterns he carved in the likeness of a zombie, left, and the Night King from the television show "Game of Thrones" will be featured on the Food Network's Halloween Wars: Hayride of Horror. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Every Halloween, millions of people scoop out handfuls of guts and begin carving their pumpkins, but Frank Reaver, who teaches visual arts at Century High School, has a different method — leaving the insides of his masterpieces intact while sculpting the outside into gruesome visages.

On Monday, Oct. 2, Reaver will appear on the Food Network's "Halloween Wars: Hayride of Horror," pitting his talent with the carving knife against other Halloween enthusiasts.

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Reaver said his passion for pumpkin carving started years ago at a friend's annual Halloween party.

"His family grew pumpkins and every year they'd have a party where everyone would pick out a pumpkin and carve it," Reaver said. "I was the person that people would come over to see what I was working on."

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Soon his interest in pumpkin carving led him to the Food Artist Group, a collection of creatives who work in this edible medium. The group eventually led him to having his pumpkins featured at the Westminster Historical Society and in a live carving Facebook video for BuzzFeed last Halloween.

Century High School art teacher Frank Reaver made these Jack-o-lanterns carved in the likeness of a zombie, left, and the Night King, right, from the television show "Game of Thrones." Reaver will be featured on the Food Network's Halloween Wars: Hayride of Horror.
Century High School art teacher Frank Reaver made these Jack-o-lanterns carved in the likeness of a zombie, left, and the Night King, right, from the television show "Game of Thrones." Reaver will be featured on the Food Network's Halloween Wars: Hayride of Horror. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

It was through the Food Artist Group that Reaver said he heard about the application for "Halloween Wars." He said it was a dream come true to apply for a spot on the show.

"I'm a passionate fan of the Food Network myself," Reaver said. "I always watched 'Halloween Wars,' that's why I started carving pumpkins in the first place."

The application consisted of sending in a brief video about himself as well as 10 of his best pumpkin creations. Reaver said he had to work extra hard, because despite his love of carving, he didn't feel like he had 10 pieces that were strong enough.

Within a few weeks, Reaver said, he had his response and flew out to Los Angeles for ten days of filming, which will be used in three episodes of the final show. He said that on the program there will be three challenges each week, with a winning team at the end of the final episode.

He said there's something very liberating about working in a non-permanent medium like pumpkins.

"When you're cooking food, you're making something, but you're also presenting it as a final product even though you're going to eat it and it's no longer here again," Reaver said. "There's an intrinsic satisfaction in making something you know is going to be gone very quickly."

He said you start each project with the intention of making it look as good as it can, but there is always the underlying knowledge that if you mess up, it's just a pumpkin.

Though the impermanence can be a blessing, it also means Reaver has to work against time and nature to finish his masterpieces. He said to keep the pumpkin from lasting more than a couple of days, it has to be kept cold and covered. He uses a trash bag with wet paper towels to prevent them from drying out.

One of his recurring pumpkin and artistic subjects is portraiture. He's created pieces of caricatured faces, zombies and even likenesses, including of Donald Trump — created for BuzzFeed — and the Night King from "Game of Thrones."

Because pumpkins are only available seasonally, Reaver said artists can also create sculpted pieces out of butternut squash, watermelon and sweet potatoes. To create his pieces, Reaver uses clay tools designed for pottery as well as a fruit knife for finer details.

"I'm a very detail-oriented person, so I go for things with a lot of substance ot them," Reaver said. "I'm the kind of person that when I see something, whether it's pumpkins or whatever, I'm always striving to get good at it."

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Reaver said he probably won't watch the premiere at 10 p.m. Monday because it's a school night, but he's planning on having people over to watch the reruns on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Last year, he hosted a pumpkin-carving tutorial for students, and he's interested to see if this year raises more interest based on his television appearance.



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