CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With a guitar, work bench and dog, Charles Smith's garage doubles as a working man's paradise. But something fills the garage that you might not expect in mid-November: Pumpkins... and lots of them.
Halloween has come and gone but that makes no difference to Smith. His passion for carving pumpkins keeps him busy year round.
"When I first meet new people or co-workers and we're having round table discussion and stuff like, 'Hey what do you do for fun?'"
While others answer with playing golf or working on cars, Smith braces himself for the response to the question.
"'I like to carve pumpkins,' and that's like what? Who carves pumpkins? How is that a hobby? How do you do that all year long? And that opens the door for the conversation about the community of people that I consider friends," Smith said. "It's like, 'Oh, how much time you got? Let me tell you about this wonderful world of carving pumpkins.'"
Smith isn't the only one who has a pumpkin passion. He is part of a community united through their love of pumpkin carving.
"It's really worldwide. I mean, I've got friends who live as close as Knoxville, Tennessee and friends who live as far as Edinburgh, Scotland. There's one guy who lives in Japan."
But before finding the website, Zombie Pumpkins, Smith thought he was alone in his enjoyment of carving pumpkins in months outside of October.
"You feel like you're the weirdo and then you find all these people who are into the same thing you are," Smith said. "And it's like, 'Ahhh... my people.'"
Since discovering Zombie Pumpkins and a fellow community of pumpkin carvers, Smith's techniques and skills have improved drastically. He now stocks up on what the group calls "foamies" or Styrofoam pumpkins during October which he carves all year long with different drill bits as getting real pumpkins outside of the Halloween holiday near impossible. He said his lines have grown smoother and designs more challenging as the community shares carving outlines and ideas.
"It's almost like a therapy," Smith said. "I go into my own little world... I'm not thinking about anything else but that."
Since he was a child, Smith has adored Halloween and all the traditions that come with it.
"Everybody else looks at Halloween as the one day of the year where you can be somebody you're not and I look at Halloween as the one day of the year where I can be who I am and not be criticized for it or be like, 'You carve pumpkins? Oh no! It's Halloween! It's totally cool.'"
Smith's love of Halloween even crosses over into other holidays as he creates pumpkin ornaments and gifts pumpkins with special meanings to family and friends.
"That's my Christmas... seeing the surprise from other people when I give them a pumpkin."
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