edible notables

THE GREAT PUMPKIN

Reno sculptor creates 10,000-pound masterpiece.

WRITTEN BY ANN LINDEMANN
PHOTO BY PETER HAZEL

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Although Mathias Willemijns of Belgium earned the Guinness World Record for heaviest pumpkin with his 2,624-pound beauty, he has nothing on Peter Hazel and his 5-ton whopper. But, unlike Willemijns, Hazel’s giant pumpkin is made of steel, cement, and hand-glazed ceramic tile.

In 2012, the Reno sculptor was commissioned by Cameron Palmer, chairman of the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, to create the 10-foot-high, 12-foot-long, mosaic pumpkin.

The project was especially meaningful to Hazel, whose artist father helped launch the popular festival decades ago.

“Finally, it felt like things were coming full circle,” Hazel says.

Fifty-nine-year-old Hazel spent 30 years as a tile and granite contractor in Kings Beach before returning to his artistic roots.

Growing the gourd

In his Verdi, Nev., studio, Hazel spent six months building the sculpture, which would eventually be wheeled out for the festival’s parade. First, he created a metal framework of rebar and mesh, and then he coated the framework with layers of reinforced concrete. Next, he applied thousands of ceramic tiles that he hand glazed in three different colors.

And how does one transport a 5-ton pumpkin 250 miles?

“We did it under the cover of darkness,” Hazel recalls. “We left at 10 p.m. and got there at 6 a.m. We should have had a semi, but we basically had, like, a backhoe and car trailer. It was totally sketchy!”

Still, the piece got to its destination unscathed, and it remains an iconic feature of the festival. Nowadays, Hazel is much wiser about transport; he’s gotten plenty of practice with other enormous sculptures that he creates at Artech, a cooperative warehouse studio in Midtown Reno.

Hazel is one of an elite group of Burning Man artists who have been awarded grant money to pay for materials. At press time, Hazel was busy working on a four-story glass jellyfish for the Playa.

“I really believe it will be one of the biggest, most spectacular pieces out there,” he says.

For details, visit Peterhazel.com.

Lake Tahoe-based writer Ann Lindemann was pleased to meet the artist who also created the beautiful, giant brook trout sculpture that resides outside Lanza’s Restaurant in Kings Beach.

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