Pumpkin purists, brace yourselves. A new craft trend is transforming the age-old practice of pumpkin-carving.
Just as the advent of plastic Christmas trees challenged the status of fresh pines as the staple of Christmas decorations, foam pumpkins are changing the face of Halloween decorations.
Craft stores are selling foam pumpkins to people who then carve them into jack-o-lanterns, and some stores even offer demonstrations.
"I had a bunch of them, and I about sold out of them," said Alan Hocker, store manager of the Hobby Lobby in La Vista, Neb. He estimates that he has sold a couple hundred already.
Pumpkin-carving kits, which help carvers trace patterns onto pumpkins, have been popular for years, but the foam-pumpkin craze is boosting their sales, too, craft-store managers said.
Hocker said he sold out of the kits more than a week ago.
So why would someone want faux squash when you can have the real thing?
"Maybe they don't want to deal with the mess anymore," he said.
That's not surprising, considering how Americans love artificial Christmas trees because they don't leave pine needles all over the house, and pets are less likely to mark the newly introduced foliage as their territory.
But isn't getting your hands dirty with pumpkin pulp half the fun?
Maybe, said Cheryl Cantoya, area manager of Mangelsen's craft store in Omaha, Neb., but the effort of carving a pumpkin may seem lost when Jack's scary face quickly turns into a pathetic mush.
"It would only last for a week at the most before it starts to smell bad," Cantoya said. "I think that they like to have something that is going to last longer."