Magical Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Returns to Carefree

Halloween visits the Town of Carefree in the form of whimsical pumpkin carvings from master sculptor Ray Villafane and the Villafane Studios team (www.villafanestudios.com) for a fifth incredible year. The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, a one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrating the magic of the season, takes place Oct. 18–27, with the amazing artistry of Villafane Studios on display throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens in downtown Carefree.

Admission to the Gardens will be $15 per person Friday through Sunday, and $10 Monday through Thursday. Children 2 and under are free. Weekdays will feature the talented Villafane Studios carving team creating new and exciting pumpkin artworks, a variety of unique fall-themed edible creations and merchandise, and special Halloween-themed performances throughout the gardens. Weekend entry includes full access to the Gardens, a Harvest Market, live musical performances on two stages, novelty concessions and local food trucks, as well as admission to the Haunted Happenings zone, including a haunted house attraction, giant slide, obstacle course, carnival games, petting zoo, pony rides and more.

New in 2019 is a partnership with the Arizona Giant Pumpkin Growers Association to host an official Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11am. The best giant gourd growers in the Southwest will be bringing their obscenely large, fascinating, ginormous orange orbs to town, in hopes of squashing the giant pumpkin world record. All of the pumpkins entered in the contest will remain on-site, with Villafane’s team of carvers working their artistry on the gourds live throughout the garden during the remaining days of the event. The Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off is free to attend, and will be held on the Community Stage, just outside of Historic Spanish Village in downtown Carefree.

Photos: Desert Hearts Photography/Tiffany Copeland

Friday and Saturday nights will feature live headline entertainment each evening from 7–9:30pm on the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion stage. Valley favorites The Walkens Band brings their unique blend of country and Southern rock favorites Friday, Oct. 18. Phoenix native and American Idol season 17 favorite Wade Cota performs with his band Saturday, Oct. 19. The second weekend kicks off Friday, Oct. 25 with Rock Lobster playing the biggest music hits of the ’80s and ’90s. The ultimate Steve Miller tribute band, Pompatus of Love, rocks the stage Saturday, Oct. 26, featuring Steve Miller Band and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Greg Douglass.

Additional weekend event highlights include: Bashas’ “Adopt a Pumpkin” patch, with proceeds benefiting Desert Foothills YMCA; a Harvest Market, featuring a variety of fall-themed vendor goods and autumnal treats; the Jack O’Lantern beer garden with seasonal craft beers provided by Four Peaks Brewery, operated by the Sonoran Arts League; and the Haunted Happenings area, with family-friendly attractions for kids of all ages. Popular holiday-themed activities include pie-eating contests both weekends, sponsored by Venues Café; and costume contests for kids, adults and pets Sunday, Oct. 27. Other special events will round out the week.

For hours of operation, event schedules and more information about this annual Halloween attraction, visit www.enchantedpumpkingarden.com or call 480.488.3686.

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Returns for Fourth Year

Enjoy live carving demonstrations and magical Halloween festivities

Visit Gourdy Gooligan and his Carefree Hooligans at this year’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden. Photos courtesy of Villafane Studios

Halloween invades the Town of Carefree in the form of whimsical pumpkin carvings from master sculptor Ray Villafane and the Villafane Studios team for a fourth year. The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, a free admission, one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrating the magic of the season, takes place Oct. 19–28, with the incredible artistry of Villafane Studios on display throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens in Downtown Carefree.

Voted “Best in the Valley” fall event in 2015 and 2016 by Phoenix Magazine, the event invites visitors to experience the many new mischievous pumpkin characters, artfully imagined and frolicking in their enchanted garden home. In addition to the playful pumpkins and holiday vignettes, Villafane and his team will carve 10 3-D pumpkin faces, which are preserved and displayed in tanks that resemble Saguaro cacti. Another popular attraction is the giant pumpkin on display for visitor photos, with Villafane handling the carving chores the second weekend of the event. Villafane’s team of carvers will create new offerings daily throughout the garden.

Highlights include two family-instructional carving nights with Villafane Oct. 25–26, sponsored by Desert Foothills YMCA. Costume contests for children, family/group and adults will be held Saturday, Oct. 27, and a pet costume contest will be held Sunday, Oct. 28, sponsored by Carefree Pet Resort. Other popular activities include the Bashas’ “Adopt a Pumpkin” patch; a pumpkin pie eating competition, with pies provided by Venues Café; a Harvest Market, featuring vendor goods and autumnal treats; a beer garden featuring craft beers provided by Four Peaks Brewery and wine; culinary food trucks; and a new weekend Haunted Happenings area, where for a $5 fee visitors will enjoy a petting zoo, pony rides, a haunted house, corn maze and other family-friendly attractions. Other special events will round out the week.

Based in Arizona, with a workshop and gallery, Villafane is an internationally acclaimed American sculptor who has travelled throughout the globe fashioning exceptional figures and scenes out of pumpkins, sand and snow. Villafane has been called, “the Michelangelo of pumpkin carving,” by Martha Stewart, carved for the president at the White House, and has appeared on numerous national TV programs as well as holding two entries in the Guinness Book of World Records. For information about Ray Villafane and Villafane Studios, visit www.villafanestudios.com.

For more information about the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden event, call 480.488.3686 or visit www.carefreepumpkingarden.com.

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Returns To Carefree

Photos courtesy of Villafane Studios

The Halloween spirit will invade the Town of Carefree for its third year in the form of whimsical pumpkin carvings from master sculptor Ray Villafane and the Villafane Studios team (www.villafanestudios.com). The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden will be woven throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens.

This free admission, one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrates incredible artistry and enchantment of the Halloween season for all ages, and is open October 20-29, 10am–9pm. Visitors are invited to stroll through the garden and experience the many new mischievous pumpkin characters, artfully imagined and frolicking in their magical garden home. In addition to the playful pumpkins, Villafane and his team will carve 10 3-D pumpkin faces preserved and displayed in tanks that resemble Saguaro cacti, sculpted and immersed in a pickling solution for preservation and lit by LED light. One of the most popular photo opportunities is the 400-pound pumpkin, carved by Villafane himself the weekend before Halloween, on display for visitors to take selfies and family photos. Villafane’s team of four carvers will create new carvings daily throughout the garden and welcome children to carve with them up-close and personal. Other special highlights include two family instructional carving nights with Villafane and Desert Foothills YMCA October 25 and 26; reservations are recommended. There is anticipation of a new costume contest for families and kids along with an adult spooktacular costume contest October 28. Other popular activities include the “Adopt a Pumpkin” patch, pumpkin pie eating competition, corn maze, face painting, arts and crafts, a new harvest market and a local craft beer garden featuring Four Peaks along with culinary food trucks and autumnal treats. On Halloween, the Town will work with local boutique Bella Donna and Cane to coordinate a “Trunk or Treat” event along Carefree’s Easy street at 5pm.

For complete event details, visit www.carefreepumpkingarden.com or call 480.488.3686.

 

Carefree Welcomes Back Sand Sculpting – Adds Stone Exhibit

Rock balancing by Tim Anderson

Rock balancing by Tim Anderson

The Town of Carefree welcomes world renowned artist and sculptor, Ray Villafane, back to create sand art like no other within the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, Carefree Desert Gardens starting March 4. Villafane (www.villafanestudios.com) for the first time has invited professional stone balancer Tim Anderson (www.keystonebalance.com), a Pennsylvania native, to join him the weekend of March 17-19 to transform the Gardens into an artistic stone playground. Visitors can watch demonstrations, participate and ask questions as the artists defy the laws of physics without the use of any adhesives other than gravity and stones provided by Mother Nature to create unusual artistic formations in the Desert Gardens pools and around the scenic landscape. The Thunderbird Artists (www.thunderbirdartists.com) will also be present in the downtown area for their Carefree Fine Art and Wine event that weekend (see page 48), $3 entrance fee for sand, stone and all the fine art you can consume.

Ray Villafane and Elephant Chessie Trunkston

Ray Villafane and Elephant “Chessie Trunkston”

The first life-size signature sculptor created by Villafane and Sue Beatrice in the Carefree Desert Gardens was completed in May of 2016 titled, “Elephant playing chess with a field mouse,” and consisting of 24 tons of sand sourced from the Salt River. The exhibit garnered world attention by the media who had never seen sand sculpting taken to that level. The silt’s fine texture, married with a tamping process and the right amount of water allows for Villafane to achieve greater detail with his sculpting. When finished, he sprayed a solution of water and glue on the entire sculpture to protect it from the elements allowing it to last upwards of six months for thousands of visitors to enjoy.

Villafane has been on the global scene for 10 years carving sand and says, “I love Carefree and am glad to be back again for a second year within the beautiful Desert Gardens. It’s a playground and inspiration and appreciate the Town allowing me to be a part of it.”

The exhibit will be on display through August. Admission is free and open to the public every day of the week, with the exception of March 17-19, when the Thunderbird artists will join Villafane, Anderson and 150 fine artists at the Carefree Fine Art and Wine event, when there is a $3 entrance fee. Carefree residents are free.

For more information, call 480.488.3686 or visit www.carefree.org.

Carefree Comes Alive With Spirit Of The Season

carefree-christmas-festivalchristmasfestivalLive music, choral and dance performances, real snow and snow slide, pictures with Santa, an electric light parade and fireworks, horse-drawn carriage rides, North Pole train rides, a huge gift and food market, a Nativity scene, pet parade and pet pictures with Santa…yep, the Ninth Annual Carefree Christmas Festival is coming to town!

This month, Carefree’s high Sonoran Desert once again comes alive with sugarplums, elves and Santa as the annual iconic celebration offers merriment, entertainment and free holiday fun for the entire family, including beloved pets.

The scenic destination is the charming Carefree Desert Gardens and Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, which is converted into a winter wonderland and provides a stunning backdrop for a real-life Christmas village with winding paths showcasing thousands of illuminated exotic plants and cacti.

carefree-christmas-festival2There are plenty of new features to explore this year, including snow sculptures from world-renowned artist and master carver Ray Villafane. And children and adults alike will be delighted by the 40 tons of real snow, plenty of holiday shopping, tasty treats and so much more.

The Ninth Annual Carefree Christmas Festival will take place December 9-11 in Downtown Carefree.

For complete details, see our coverage here!

Magical Halloween Event Returns To Carefree Gardens

pumpkinHalloween spirit invades Carefree for its second year in the form of whimsical pumpkin carvings from master sculptor Ray Villafane (www.villafanestudios.com). The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden will be open to the public and woven throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens. This free, one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrates incredible artistry and enchantment of the Halloween season for all ages and runs October 17-31, 10am-10pm, 101 Easy Street, Carefree.

New in 2016 will be the unveiling of Ray’s life size scarecrows, which are hand crafted mostly of organic materials. Visitors are invited back to stroll and experience the many new mischievous pumpkin characters, artfully imagined and frolicking in their magical garden home. In addition to the playful pumpkins, Ray and his team will carve 10 3D pumpkin faces preserved and displayed in tanks that resemble Saguaro cacti, sculpted and immersed in a pickling solution for preservation and lit by LED lighting. Ray will again, carve multiple “colossal” 400 pound pumpkins. Visitors are welcome to ask questions while kids can carve with him up-close and personal.

Other special weekend highlights include family carving nights with Ray Villafane and the Desert Foothills YMCA on October 26 and 27, reservations recommended. New this year, Jelly Belly will invite visitors to take the “Bean Boozled Challenge” and get their picture taken with the Jelly Belly pumpkins. Easy Street Galleria will offer kids crafts along with face painting by a local artist. Adopt a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, register for the pumpkin pie eating competition and enjoy a local craft beer garden along with culinary food trucks and autumnal treats. On Halloween, costumes are encouraged and kids are welcome to trick or treat at various stations throughout the gardens.

For more information, visit  or www.carefreepumpkingarden.com, or call 480.488.3686.

Art Comes Alive In Carefree Desert Gardens

rock sculptureThe Town of Carefree welcomed world-renowned artist and sculptor, Ray Villafane, to create art like no other (massive sand sculptures) within the Carefree Desert Gardens in April, and he will begin a larger display in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion in May. Admission is free, and based upon the overwhelming success and attendance of the “Enchanted Pumpkin Garden” this past October, the Town of Carefree unanimously voted to have Villafane back for seasonal town events through 2016-17.

Villafane’s first sculpture was around 15-tons and created out of washed river silt. The silt is very fine and allows for Ray to achieve great detail with this sculpting. This will be smaller than most of his works as he has created larger-than-life sand sculptures for attractions in Russia, Italy, Puerto Rico and New York.

Villafane has been on the global scene for 10 years carving sand and says, “I love Carefree and its beautiful Desert Garden, it’s a playground and inspiration for me and appreciate the Town allowing me to be a part of it.”

Based in Arizona, Villafane is an internationally acclaimed American sculptor who has traveled throughout the globe fashioning exceptional figures and scenes out of pumpkins, sand and snow. Starting May 15, Ray will attempt a 20-ton sculpture that will be on display in the center of the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion through August.

Always looking for new artistic outlets, he has recently taken up rock balancing, which is also on display in Carefree. Villafane, along with a professional rock balancer, will be in the Gardens May 15-25 teaching visitors the art of rock balancing.

For more information on the Town of Carefree, visit www.carefree.org. For more photos of Villafane’s work, visit www.villafanestudios.com.

Meet The Artist Behind Enchanted Pumpkin Garden

EnchantedPumpkinGarden

Photo courtesy of Villafane Studios

Carefree’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, featuring pumpkin sculptures from world-renowned artist Ray Villafane, will inhabit Carefree Desert Gardens October 16-31, 8am-9pm.

Admission is free.

There will be opportunities to see Villafane, up-close, as he carves whimsical characters and answers questions of how he creates such masterpieces. Dates and times include:

  • Friday, October 16, 10am-6pm (Grand Opening Day)
  • Saturday, October 17, 10am-6pm
  • Sunday, October 18, 10am-6pm
  • Saturday, October 31, 10am-6pm (Halloween)

Appearances by artist and sculptor, Paolo Acuna, Villafane Studios:

  • Saturday, October 24, 10am-6pm
  • Sunday, October 25, 10am-6pm

Additional scheduled events will include Pet Costume Parade, Picasso Pumpkin Kids, Family Carving Nights Desert Foothills Family YMCA fundraiser (October 17 and 28) photo opportunities with “King of Carefree” pumpkin and much more. Get full details on Enchanted Pumpkin Garden events www.carefreepumpkingarden.com.

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