Monday, August 29, 2005

Statue springs to life with pumpkin vines

I haven't seen this, might have to stop by. Not particularly a fan of statues, but the man himself is remembered for his good deeds.


Hot days and afternoon monsoons have had a magical effect on the statue of Nick Venetucci — the celebrated pumpkin man of Colorado Springs memorialized in bronze on the lawn of the Pioneers Museum downtown.

Almost overnight, the statue seemingly came to life as large pumpkin vines sprouted in the flower bed that surrounds it.

The vines have obliterated pansies planted earlier in the summer, and they’ve given birth to gourds that swell with each afternoon shower. Today, the vines are kneehigh on the statue honoring the Security farmer.

It’s a pose thousands of area residents would recognize: Venetucci smiling amid growing pumpkins. Before his death Sept. 7, 2004, he became a legend for giving pumpkins to area schoolchildren over a 50-year period.

“It really looks great,” said Matt Mayberry, museum director. “It’s such a fitting tribute to Venetucci.”

Mayberry is eager to see the small green fruit on the vine grow and ripen into the large, orangish-yellow pumpkins that were Venetucci’s trademark.

Some of the vines are spilling onto the sidewalk, and others are slightly obscuring the three bronze children who surround Venetucci in artist Fred Darpino’s sculpture.

Again, Mayberry thinks it only adds to the effect.

“It really looks great with the kids there in the pumpkin patch,” he said.

Others agree, including Suzanne Royer, who spearheaded the “Pennies for Pumpkins” campaign that raised more than $100,000 to pay for the statue.

“I love it,” Royer said.

Another fan is Bambi Venetucci, who worked side-by-side with her husband at the farm and was his partner in the annual pumpkin giveaway.

It was Bambi who coordinated the visits of school groups, social clubs, senior citizens and others — upwards of 50,000 a year — to the farm to gather free pumpkins.

She has made several visits to the statue since it was unveiled last October and is tickled by the growing vines.

“It’s a beautiful tribute,” she said. “And I think it’s wonderful people are still so caring and interested. He loved his community, and it’s so nice to see they love him, too.”

So, just who is responsible for the pumpkins, anyway? Neither Royer nor Bambi Venetucci knew the answer.

And it wasn’t the city gardners who planted them, said Paul Butcher, director of the Parks Department.

“We don’t plant vegetables and fruits that can be consumed,” he said.

Could it have been magic? Maybe a little pumpkin dust sprinkled in the dirt?

Actually, it was Beth Kosley of the Downtown Partnership.

“We planted pumpkin seeds at the request of the museum and the artist,” Kosley said, noting how the vines are really taking off. “I’m a little worried we’re having too much success.”

No way, say Mayberry, Royer and the others. Their only fear is that the pumpkins might disappear.

“We’re a little bit worried,” Mayberry said. “We’ll just have to see what happens. It will be great if we can get to middle or late October and have bright pumpkins in there.

“We’ll have to see how the public reacts to it.”

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On other notes - I watched the series finales of The 4400 and The Dead Zone last night - they were good!

Later this week is a birth anniversary for Imam Musa Kazim (as), 7th Imam (as). I think it is Wednesday. People don't give him the respect and attention he is due, as is the case for many of our Imams (sa). There is a lengthy biography of him for sale at the Khoei bookstore now. I got a copy but I haven't read it yet, because I'm trying to work through the Imams' biographies in order.

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