Amy and Geoff Binns-Calvey (left) show a model of their pumpkin smashing device to Commissioner of Public Property Jessica Voogd (right) at Kribi Coffee on Tuesday October 24, 2023. | Todd Bannor

When you come to the Smashing Pumpkins event at the Altenheim on Saturday, Nov. 4, you won’t hear a concert by a ‘90s alternative rock band.  What you will experience is an opportunity to dispose of those jack-o-lanterns on your lawn in an eco-friendly way. And perhaps the actual smushing will even relieve a little of the stress you’ve built up during the work week.

The details.  Geoff Binns-Calvey has constructed a 14-foot-tall hammer gizmo for smashing pumpkins to smithereens.  He will place the doomed pumpkin on a stump below the hammer, invite kids to help pull the hammer up to the ready position and then pull the lever triggering the giant hammer to come crashing down on the worn-out pumpkin. 

This will all happen inside a Republic-provided dumpster which will be carted off after the event to be composted by a nonprofit called SCARCE whose mission is “to preserve and care for the Earth’s natural resources, while working to build sustainable communities.”

If residents don’t want to hang around for the smashing experience they can simply drop off their pumpkins and let others have the fun.

Amy Binns-Calvey, the chair of the village’s Recreation Board, which is sponsoring the event, said SCARCE gave the village a grant for the project and is partnering with Republic to haul the pulverized pumpkins away.

Commissioner Jessica Voogd noticed the idea in a magazine, brought it to the rec board and that seed sprouted and bloomed quickly. 

 Amy Binns-Calvey said the leasing of four village-owned pocket parks to the Park District of Forest Park freed time up for the rec board to get creative.  What happened, she said, was the board began to look at recreation more broadly than focusing just on whether to order a swing set for a park. 

“We began focusing on green spaces in the village,” she said, “getting involved with Arbor Day and cleanup days, so this smashing pumpkin event fits nicely into those expanded boundaries.”

Sal Stella, director of public works, and Voogd were on board with the idea and did a lot of sweating of details.  So were several volunteers.  Binns-Calvey “volunteered” her husband Geoff to construct the pumpkin smasher.  Voogd used the word “organic” to describe how the project went from the seed of an idea to the blossoming of the event on Nov. 4. 

To get to the event, which will run from 9 a.m. till noon on Saturday morning, drive west on Madison, turn south on Van Buren and enter the Altenheim grounds by turning right through a gate which will be clearly marked.  Signs will guide you the entire way.

She said that the event is already having a ripple effect.  A middle school science teacher is using her husband’s prototype as a lesson in designing machinery.

She asked residents to remove all decorations from their jack-o-lanterns as well as the candles inside but added that acrylic paint on the outside does not have to be removed.

There is a bit of a “ready, shoot, aim” feel to this year’s inaugural Smashing Pumpkins.  Voogd said, “This is our very first year.  Our committee has a lot of big ideas, but the challenge is in figuring out the details.  For example, we are considering having vendors present, but that would require that they go through the standard application process with the village.

“We are already thinking of this event as not just a one-off thing, but we want to make it an institution, something we do every year.  We are committed.  We will do it this year, see how it goes and learn from the experience.”