Friends help carve pumpkins to keep a family tradition alive

Tom Fowell and his father have a record of carving 80 pumpkins for Halloween

Halloween is a time for spooky costumes, haunted houses and carving pumpkins but it’s also a time for family.

Tom Fowell and his mother live in Richland Center. Every year, they get hundreds and hundreds of trick-or-treaters at their house. Of course there is candy but many go there for the elaborate pumpkin display and this year, Fowell got a little help from his friends.

It’s an endless cycle of cutting, gutting and carving pumpkins at Vern Weisensel’s house in Onalaska.

“We’ve been going at it all day,” said Weisensel.

These aren’t your average jack-o-lanterns, but there’s a good reason. They have to keep up with their friend Fowell’s carving skills.

“Tom is very ornate with all of his. He has been putting some pictures on Facebook so we know what we are up against,” said Weisensel.

Comparing pictures is the best they can do for now because Fowell wasn’t invited to the pumpkin-carving party. In fact, Fowell was the only one not invited because the party is for him.

“Tom lived with me out here for about two years and every time Halloween rolled around, he went away for like a week,” said Nick Guiliana, Fowell’s friend.

“He and his father used to always carve a whole bunch of pumpkins every year, like a couple dozen,” said Weisensel.

“It was always a stop for Halloween, go to Toms house and check out the pumpkins,” said Jacob Schoville, Fowell’s friend.

But a few years ago, Fowell’s dad passed away from cancer.

“Tom has still been doing the carving and trying to keep the tradition alive,” said Weisensel.

“But one man can only do so much,” said Guiliana.

So this year, Fowell’s friends decided to do something to help.

“We were sitting around talking and we were discussing how Halloween would be coming up and how Tom would be doing his carving and we said we should do this for Tom and it snowballed from there,” said Weisensel.

Now dozens of people are helping Fowell keep his family tradition going.

“Half the people here have never met him, I said he is a good guy and I am trying to help him out and they said ‘OK’ we are in,” said Weisensel.

In total secrecy, they carved about 49 pumpkins.

Now comes the hard part, getting them to Richland Center without any of them breaking.

About an hour and a half later, the pumpkins arrive at Fowell’s house and when he opens the hatch he is overwhelmed.

“The day that he passed, I remember that every year but it goes by. This is the time that it hits like no other,” said Fowell. “Keeping this going is about remembering dad every year and that is why I kept it going.”

And after seeing all of the pumpkins, 73 in total, Fowell said his dad would be so proud.

“He is smiling, absolutely smiling right now,” said Fowell.

And with a little extra help, Fowell’s family tradition lights up another year

“Bottom of my heart thank you to everyone who came out and did all of this, just for us. We are just a small family, me and my mom, out here in Richland Center and this means the world to us, this is awesome,” said Fowell.

Along with volunteers helping gut and carve the pumpkins for Fowell’s pumpkin display, others donated money and pumpkins to the cause.