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Aviation museum pumpkin tradition offers smashing good time

The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City held its annual Pumpkin Drop on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, where children and their families threw old pumpkins off the museum's third-floor balcony. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

For Jason Jackrel of North Bellmore, it started eight years ago.

That’s when the Cradle of Aviation Museum first organized its annual Pumpkin Drop, an event that allows Long Islanders to heave rotten pumpkins off the museum’s third-floor balcony. Now, as a teenager, Jason has come to the event every year to watch pumpkins splat when they hit the floor.

“There’s a certain balance to getting the perfect one because, if it’s too hard, it’ll just fall and crack, but, if it’s too rotten, it’ll just fall and mush,” said Jason, 14. “There’s no way to 100 percent tell unless you drop it.”

The atrium floor inside the museum was covered in slimy, orange pulp as dozens of people lined up to destroy pumpkins. Some people, like Jason, smashed pumpkins that were donated to the museum, while others brought pumpkins from home.

Lindenhurst resident Chris Shataka, for example, brought his wife, son, and nephew to the event toting two bags of pumpkins.

“We thought it would be fun for the kids and then we would walk around the museum afterward,” Shataka said.

The Pumpkin Drop started as a way to lure people to the museum and give them a creative way to discard their Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, said Andrew Parton, the museum’s executive director. However, over the years, some families have made the event a tradition, he said.

“We get numerous e-mails from folks saying: ‘When are you getting the date set up? I’ve got my pumpkins lined up’,” Parton said. “It’s been a fun program and a good excuse to get the kids out and another reason to come back to the Cradle.”

Once all the pumpkins were smashed Sunday, museum staff members cleaned the atrium floor by sweeping up every bit of pumpkin and placing it in large storage bins. Staff members plan to dump the waste in a field behind the museum building as a way to feed local wildlife.

One of the cleanup crew members was Westbury resident Carlos Ventura, who also provided the dramatic drum roll before each drop. Ventura, who smashed a pumpkin for the first time Sunday, had his own theory on how to get the best results.

“You gotta just throw it as hard as you can,” he said. “The bigger it is, the more explosion you’ll get.”

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