Gaspee Days Parade Grand Marshal

Published 05/17/2019

WARWICK, RI – On Monday, May 6, 2019, the Gaspee Days Parade Co-Chairs Katelyn Perlini and Andrew Brown formally announced John Reckner, founder of Passion for Pumpkins and creator of the Roger Williams Park Zoo annual Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular as the Gaspee Days Parade Grand Marshal.

From a grand hemlock tree decorated with illuminated pumpkins to a lengthy trail with more than 5,000 intricately carved pumpkins depicting scenes from history, literature, the movies and real life, John Reckner’s artistic brilliance has made the Roger Williams Park Zoo Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular into a phenomenon that has been delighting audiences for over thirty years.

"In choosing our Grand Marshal, Andrew and I looked for someone with creativity who thru their work brings good to Rhode Island.  John and his amazing team have put so much creativity, passion, hard work and time into the annual Jack-O-Lantern Specular. The Roger Williams Park Zoo event has given hundreds of Rhode Islanders a family tradition each Fall. To top it all off, proceeds from the pumpkin extravaganza benefit the Zoo’s  animal care, environmental education and conservation efforts.  Andrew and I are delighted to welcome John to our 54th celebration as athank you for all he has done for Rhode Island, states Katelyn.  Andrewand Katelyn have another reason to celebrate the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular.This year, after leaving the event, Andrew proposed to me by carving Katelyn Perlini, will you marry me? into a decorative pumpkin,” Katelyn adds.

John Reckner was a postal worker in the mid-1980’s when he took his family to Vermont for a getaway where he saw intricately carved decorated pumpkins.  Months later, walking his dogs back in his hometown of Oxford, MA, Reckner had an idea.  So, in 1988, Recknerdecorated a large hemlock tree in his neighborhood with intricately carved illuminated pumpkins.  The reaction was overwhelming.

In 2009, the staff at Passion for Pumpkins and the artists and carvers of the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular decided Roger Williams Park Zoo was the best venue possible for the ever-growing show!  Now a tradition in New England, the show attracts 115,000 – 140,000 visitors from all over the country each October.  In 2013, Passion for Pumpkins expanded the show to Louisville, KY; and in 2018, a new Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular opened at the Minnesota Zoo.  In the autumn of 2020, Passion for Pumpkins will host a new show outside of Chicago, IL in conjunction with the Boy Scouts of America.

The Gaspee Days Parade will be held on Saturday, June 8th at 10:00 am in Historic Pawtuxet Village through Cranston and Warwick, RI.


Media Contact: Erin Flynn,

Parade Chairs: Katelyn Perlini and Andrew Brown,

President: Ryan Giviens,



The Gaspee Days Committee
is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots in 1772 as America's
'First Blow for Freedom' TM