GRIFFITH | Have a "yaba dabba doo!" time at the Mervyn and Rita Barenie home, 917 E. Miller St., as the family takes visitors back to Bedrock with its annual lighted carved pumpkin Halloween display.
The Flintstones, an iconic animated TV sitcom, ran from 1961 to 1966 and told the story of Fred Flintstone, a working-class Stone Age man, his family life and his relationship with Barney Rubble, his best friend and next-door neighbor.
Several dozen pumpkins — some tipping the scales at more than 1,000 pounds — were all grown by the family in gardens about a half-block from the home.
“We started growing the giant pumpkins in 1999,” said John Barenie, the couple’s son and inspiration for the 13-year-old family tradition. “Each year we save the seeds we’ll plant next year. We cross-pollinate the plants by hand to get a better strain of pumpkin.”
Moving the massive gourds from the gardens to the front yard takes a special lifting rig affixed to a tractor. Cleaning the pulp and seeds requires a lot of back-breaking work with hoes, he said.
All that pulp and seed go back into the garden. The pumpkin seeds are separated by hand, and the pulp returns to the garden as compost.
About 20 family members spent several days hand-carving the pumpkins with images of Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, Pebbles, Bam-Bam, Dino and others from the TV series. They also created the Flintstone home, complete with flat roof.
Artists who drew the figures in preparation for carving included John’s sisters Judy Barenie and Carolyn Barenie Belcher, of Griffith, and nieces Danielle Barenie, of Highland; Lorraine Hagman, of Cedar Lake; and Claire Barenie, of Crown Point.
“My sister, Judy, has wanted to do The Flintstones for a number of years. We’ve been waiting to get the right pumpkins,” John Barenie said. “It takes the right shaped pumpkins to do these characters.”
The largest pumpkin in this year’s display weighed in at 1,293 pounds and took first place in the Indiana State Fair competition. Another 819-pounder captured the blue ribbon at the Lake County Fair. On Oct. 6, still another Barenie behemoth weighing 1,233 pounds won the top prize at a pumpkin contest in Hamlet, Ind.
At dusk for the next several nights the pumpkins will be illuminated from the inside by auto tail light bulbs.
“We hope to go through the weekend,” Barenie said. “It depends on the pumpkins. The wind is drying them out, but we’re lucky it’s cold. They’ll last longer.”