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LOS ANGELES Intricately carved pumpkins may be nothing new, but an inaugural festival in Calabasas has a distinctly Los Angeles twist—more than 5,000 hand-carved jack-o-lanterns feature local staples like the shops on Rodeo Drive, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, and palm trees surrounding the Hollywood sign.
The fun, social media-friendly displays are part of Nights of the Jack, a new festival taking over a half-mile trail at King Gillette Ranch. Running from October 11 to November 4, the public, ticketed event features more than 20 large installations with themes and has already drawn celebrities including Matt Damon, Tori Spelling, Taylor Lautner, David Arquette, and Lance Bass.
The event is the brainchild of Ben Biscotti, co-founder and president of 1iota Productions; Tony Schubert, principal of Event Eleven; and hospitality veteran Bobby Rossi of Bungalow 8 and Rec Room. The same group, which Biscotti calls “the dream team,” put together the inaugural Rosé Day L.A. in Malibu in June.
“All of us have always had a special connection to Halloween, and we wanted to create something that would become a staple destination and fun experience for families, adults, and children of all ages,” explained Biscotti. “There is truly something in our show for everyone to appreciate and enjoy. The kids love their favorite characters and the big themed installations, while the adults appreciate the intricate works of art and the level of production put into the project.”
Hundreds of artists from around the country carved the jack-o-lanterns, and New York-based Debbi Katz Productions helped with set build and design. In addition to the L.A.- and celebrity-focused areas, other family-friendly spots include a solar system display, Disney princesses, an “under the sea” theme, and a group of pumpkin dinosaurs.
“It’s a social world now, and creating that buzz on all social-media outlets is paramount to success when launching a new brand and keeping it relevant.”
The Rodeo Drive display—which features logos for Tiffany & Co., Dior, YSL, and other luxury brands flanked by glamorous pumpkin-headed shoppers—was designed as both an homage to the fashion industry and a chance to secure some future partnerships.
“We chose some of our favorite brands—and maybe our wives had a little something to do with it too,” laughed Biscotti. “We wanted to showcase these brands year one to prove that this unique marketing approach is a ‘must-have’ when entering the holiday season. We are projecting over 50,000 people to physically pass by the installation, and the total number of social impressions and press by the end of the run should be an extremely attractive proposition for future marketing dollars.”
The festival also has food trucks and a bar from Lance Bass’s Bubble Tap Trailer, and of course, plenty of social-media-friendly moments, which Biscotti noted is crucial when launching a new event. “It’s a social world now, and creating that buzz on all social-media outlets is paramount to success when launching a new brand and keeping it relevant,” he said.
So, will the “dream team” behind Nights of the Jack continue to plan public events in the future? Biscotti says yes. “This team of veterans brings a unique set of skills from different industries, and [we've] been able to create amazing properties that we hope will be staple events here in L.A. for many years,” he explained. “Absolutely be on the lookout for more of these experiential brands in the near future.”