Bonding over brushes: pumpkin painting at Cafe Mac


Photo courtesy of the Campus Center.

Grace (Ziyue) Xue and Jerome Paulos

On the night of Friday, October 7, more than 100 students flocked to Café Mac, not to eat food, but to paint it. More specifically, to attend the Office of Student Leadership & Engagement-organized (OSLE) Pumpkin Painting Party.

Students lined up before a large gray cart to pick their pumpkin. In less than 20 minutes, all but one lumpy, stemless pumpkin were being decorated by students gathered around tables. Once neat clusters of acrylic paints and stencils were spread out across the room, people leaned between tables, exchanging phrases like “Can I borrow your green?and socialized around the hot apple cider and blue-and-orange Macalester-themed cookies.

Bess Connolly ’25, one of the event coordinators, stocked the cart with 100 small pumpkins before the event, which she thought would be more than enough. 

“We started with six tables … that’s how many people we were expecting,” she said. “Everyone came on time, like within five minutes.” 

This left the organizers scrambling to prepare 14 more tables. For her part, Connolly helped to spread protective tablecloths, rushing between tables with tape and scissors in hand.

Eleanor Grinnell ’23 and Alexandra Jabbarpour ’23 were among the first to choose their pumpkins. Grinnell’s pumpkin stood out to her because of its unique stem — long and curvy.

Grinnell, who lives off-campus, is excited to give out candy to children on Halloween. 

“Last year, I lived in the Russian House, which is almost off campus,” she said.
“We tried [to give out candy] but nobody came.” 

“Instead, we reversed trick or treating … [and] went to the language houses, and we gave them candy and tried to say trick or treat in their language,” Grinnell continued.

Jabbarpour’s pumpkin, however, was taller and boxier, with fewer ridges. 

“By having [the pumpkin] be tall, I knew I had more surface area to paint on,” they said. “I love Luna moths … so now I’m trying to [paint one] but in more Halloween colors.”

Halloween is very important to Jabbapour’s professor, Roopali Phadke, as well. 

“Her street … gets really intense around Halloween,” Jabbarpour said. “She canceled her night class … and she’s like ‘everyone should come to my street.’” 

Jabbapour might spend Halloween with some friends in Phadke’s neighborhood. 

“I’m thinking of going as Miss Frizzle from the Magic School Bus. And/or a pirate,” they said.

At another table, Sarah Phillippi ’25 searched for inspiration on Pinterest. A thumbprint design caught her eye — she has had a special connection with pumpkins since she was a child. 

“At age five, I bought a pumpkin at a grocery store and slept with it for like six months,” she recalled. “It did get bad eventually … I made my entire family have a funeral for it and bury it in the backyard. Its name was Pumpkiny and it was like a stuffed animal to me.”

A’di Dust ’23 arrived late to the event and thus was stuck with the stemless pumpkin that no one wanted. They planned on painting a witch and had a creative solution to cover their pumpkin’s bald spot.

The last time Dust went trick-or-treating was between dorms on their first Halloween at Macalester. 

“I dressed up as a sleepy college student,” Dust said. “I just kinda rolled out of bed. I just wanted candy.” 

Dust has also had a long professional relationship with Halloween — their first job was as a scarer in a haunted house for $9.50/hour. According to them, scaring people takes more consideration than one might think. 

“[You have to be] careful about groups. You have to wait until the middle of the group, otherwise you’re going to scare some people and not others,” they said.

Dust learned about the event through the Mac Daily newsletter. 

“I’ve been very busy all week, so just being able to focus on something has been awesome,” they said.

Aino Boley ’26, one of the organizers of the event, was surprised by the turnout. 

“I really didn’t think this many people would come,” she said. “It’s heartwarming to see how many people are with their friends and doing their thing.”

[email protected]

[email protected]