2023 DECA Pumpkin Decorating Contest: A Thorough Review

The DECA Pumpkin Contest, as some of you may know, is an annual competition held by the Distributive Education Clubs of America Organization that allows students to celebrate the Halloween season by decorating this classic autumn staple. High school students around the country were able to submit pictures of their creations via the DECA website starting on October 4th until October 30th, and luckily for me, winners were uploaded onto DECA’s main website just this past week. Some of you could perhaps be wondering just why I care so much about a contest I didn’t enter, for a club I dropped out of (reserve your judgment, OK? I barely get enough sleep as is). Well, the reason is quite simple. I have been waiting for MONTHS to review the results. You will soon come to terms with the fact that I have a strong opinion on pretty much everything, and I have zero qualms sharing it with you all. 


This contest was split up into four main categories, listed below:


-DECA-iset Pumpkin (because according to logic, you can place -iset, -er or -esque as the suffix for pretty much anything, and it’s considered a comprehensible word.)


-Funniest Pumpkin


-Most Creative Pumpkin


-Spookiest Pumpkin


Now, there were three winners for each category, the awards of first, second, and third place being given. I, being the kind, do-gooder (see what I mean with the -er suffix) that I am, will be mentioning all of them. Sadly, that does mean my commentary on each one will be cut short, because there’s absolutely no way I’m writing a full fledged essay for 12 pumpkins. We’ve already previously established I’m lazy, so this should hopefully come as a surprise to no one. 


(All pictures of the pumpkins listed below have been copied and pasted directly from the DECA website. I will not critique the pumpkins to the point of being rude or disrespectful to any of the winners, I will, however, offer my opinion in a respectful manner.)


Category #1: DECA-iest Pumpkin

First Place:

Isabella Martinez | Snyder High School, Texas

I sometimes simply don’t understand how some people have the skill and patience level to carve designs as intricate as something like this. If you had put me up to the task of carving something anything remotely similar to this, the process would’ve looked relatively similar to this: 

Yea, there’s nothing there, right? Exactly, because I wouldn’t have started it. My screen time on Instagram would’ve gone up a couple hours, though. So, small successes. Excessive applause to the student who was able to pull this off, your caliber as an artist is impressive. 


Second Place:

Amelia Earl | Carolina Forest High School, South Carolina

Immediately after glancing at this submission, I had just one question:WHERE did you get the paint that offered this much coverage? All my paints make the unanimous decision to somehow become transparent whenever I use them on a surface that isn’t a piece of printer paper. Regardless, the attention to detail, with the tiny creases in the white suit, to the DECA patch on the blazer pocket, is magnificent. Well done, honestly, because I could never. (You’re going to see many self deprecating remarks regarding my abilities as an artist. I would recommend just getting used to it, because it’s not like I’m changing anytime soon.) 


Third Place:

Erica DuRant | Clear Brook High School, Texas

The creative abilities of some of you is astounding, and no, I’m certainly NOT jealous. Not at all.. The DECA logo as the moon, and the wolf howling up at it, perfectly incorporates themes of Halloween and DECA. I love how the age-old image of the wolf howling at the full moon is also reflected in the shape of the carving, which also resembles a moon. Just amazing work. 


Category #2: Funniest Pumpkin:


1st Place: 

Aidan Salmon | New Kent High School, Virginia

As many of you are most likely able to depict from my grand total of three articles written thus far, I’m not exactly the brightest crayon in the box. So, it may not surprise you to hear that I have zero idea as to whether or not this is based on a character from a movie. I originally thought Pinnochio, because of the nose. However, despite not having watched the movie, I saw the memes about the remake in 2022 on my TikTok FYP, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t have fangs, soo… Regardless, this is certainly creative, with lots of detail and effort obviously placed in the design. 


2nd Place: 

Stacie Palmisano | Olathe North High School, Kansas

I have two words. THE. EYES. They freak me out a little, but the time it must’ve taken to carve those is freakishly impressive. Plus, the creepiness is kinda balanced out by the buck teeth, so it works. I love how the top of the pumpkin is carved out, and instead of being plugged back in, it sits at the top. It really helps to emphasize the classic “airhead” image the artist is trying to portray. Did I just overanalyze a pumpkin? Maybe. But is it like I’m wrong?




3rd Place:

Maya DePaul | Plymouth South High School, Massachusetts

Ok, at first glance, I have a few thoughts. Such as, is this a cat, or a tiger? I know, I know it’s a cat. But seriously, does nobody else see a tiger? Also, how did the artist manage to not eat all the candy corn? I thought people who didn’t enjoy candy corn were myths, or simply on a sugar detox.  I guess none of that truly matters at the end of the day. Oh, and again with the eyes. I love how they aren’t symmetrical, and seem to be looking in two different directions. It adds to the distorted look, which just makes the pumpkin cat funnier.


Category #3: Most Creative Pumpkin


1st Place: 

Jordyn Rosenblatt | Lehigh University, Pennsylvania

Wow. Just, wow. This is the pumpkin us ordinary people will gaze at while practically glowing green with envy, because the sheer talent and detail is truly mind boggling. I could probably gaslight myself into thinking I could design something as intricate as this at 3 am in the morning, but ending up an hour later with a carving that looks more like someone mauled my pumpkin with a dull steak knife than anything like this. This absolutely deserved first place, and anyone who disagrees can argue with the wall.


2nd Place:

Madison Kaffl | Glen Cove High School, New York

I am in love with this design. It isn’t like anything else I’ve seen when I was looking through the contest winner results, but that’s what makes it so special. There aren’t many convoluted details, sure. But it’s unique, with the window, to the steps, and the miniature pumpkin sitting in the makeshift “home”. I would argue that unique ideas are more difficult to come up with than complex ones, and for that, I applaud the designer. You have my respect, so congratulations!


3rd Place:

Erica DuRant | Clear Brook High School, Texas

One pattern I’ve noticed while looking through the results, was that a good number of the winners seem to be from Texas. The conspiracy theorist I am (PSA: I’m not), I suspected some foul play at first (PSA: no, I didn’t). But, how could there possibly have been foul play?? I mean, LOOK at this. This artist literally carved out spots in the Sclera to create the illusion of light shining down on the eyeball. To put it simply, they somehow managed to shade a pumpkin. I can’t even sculpt two symmetrical lines in my 3D art class (it’s a miracle I’m passing that class, by the way). So yea, they deserved to win.


Category #4: Spookiest Pumpkin


1st Place: 

Sophia Rolleri | Spanish River High School, Florida

If this artist was going for spooky, well, they certainly achieved their goal. Quite frankly, this very well may be what my sleep paralysis demon looked like if I had one (watch me jinx myself). It’s phenomenal, with the soulless, empty eyes and the wires, attempting to portray the eyes and the mouth being sewn shut. Honestly, it perfectly incorporates elements of both the Saw franchise, which I haven’t seen, and Coraline, which I absolutely have seen. It’s a banger, a Halloween staple. You have to watch it sometime. 


2nd Place: 

Kelly Louro | New Jersey

I have a bias towards this design. Obviously, it’s spectacular. With the light within the pumpkin being used to emphasize the lettering, and the design of the lady on the front being both intricate and, again, shaded (seriously, how are y’all shading pumpkins?!) But that’s not the reason. I have very distinct, vivid memories of sitting in my best friend’s driveway, on their dad’s truck while our parents had wine and s’mores as they laughed on the rickety porch. We, however, were reading each other scary stories from this very book to each other. Did I sleep that night? Absolutely not. But I did have a great time.


3rd Place: 

Dervla Steele | Spanish River High School, Florida

Oh. My. God. I’m half convinced a requirement to attend Spanish River High School is an impressive level of creative ability, because these kids are creating some of the most complex pumpkin carvings my eyes have ever seen. Seriously, where do y’all find the time and the patience? I love everything about this, it might be one of my favorites if I’m honest. 




You don’t want to know just how long it took me to write this… But too bad, because I’m gonna tell you anyway. Around 4 hours, if I had to make an educated guess. I would like to thank Taylor Swift, because I absolutely listened to 1989 on repeat the ENTIRE time I worked on this. Now, I apologize for cutting this conclusion short, but I have 2 projects to complete, a test to study for, and I’m running on 2 hours of sleep and a can of Red Bull. That was sarcasm. It’s not Red Bull, its sparkling grape juice, but I figured Red Bull sounded less lame. 

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