In Pequot Lakes, no pumpkin appear to be safe from capers bringing joy to the holiday
PEQUOT LAKES, Minn. -- One night each year, just before Halloween, pumpkins lining the storefronts and sidewalks of this central Minnesota town mysteriously vanish, only to return by daybreak decked out for the holiday.
No one knows when the transformation will occur or who is responsible. The only clue is a sign left on each pumpkin reading “Happy Halloween from the Pumpkin Capers!”
The Capers, in an anonymous letter, gave insight into their operations for the first time.
“The Pumpkin Capers is a group made up of local people that love the town of Pequot Lakes,” the letter said. Membership varies from year to year depending on when people are available.
They started several years ago when friends got together to celebrate a birthday. As the date was close to Halloween, the group decided to carve and decorate pumpkins. As they worked, they discovered that the establishment they were visiting did not have any pumpkin decorations and wanted to rectify that. Thus, the Pumpkin Capers were born.
“Everyone is so excited and very much into the pumpkin project,” said the Capers. “They look forward to each year as another small way to give back and make it fun for the town.”
The Capers used to carve pumpkins, but they have transitioned to decorations purchased at the dollar stores town so they can hit more local businesses.
This year, 10 places got “Capered” on Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Pequot Lakes, including city hall, banks, various businesses and the local newspaper.“I didn’t really know what was going on, but I thought it was cute,” said Glenda Schmidt, owner of Glenda’s Beauty Salon.
This year, she found her pumpkin in a pink dress with a crown and a wand. The note attached read: “It’s a JACK-O-Lantern, GLENDA the Good Witch of the North,” as Schmidt’s husband’s name is Jack, and he owns The Outdoorsmen’s Barber Shop next door to the beauty salon.
The Capers said that each year they do the same routine. Recon is done a few days prior to determine which businesses have pumpkins, and they try to come up with new, exciting ideas and fun themes for each location.
When they’re ready to strike, they meet in a central location. The first wave of Capers grabs the pumpkins and brings them back for decorating. When they are complete, the second wave returns them to their homes late at night.
“It becomes challenging to grab pumpkins and put them back without being seen,” said the Capers. They typically wait until dark to avoid detection.
Pequot Lakes City Hall didn’t have any pumpkins at the door when the Capers arrived, but that didn’t stop them. Instead, they stole a pumpkin from Merritt Jewelers and left it at the city hall doorstep with a playful note to the police department.
When Barb Merritt, owner of Merritt Jewelers, discovered only one of her pumpkins had been decorated and the other stolen, she said she guessed that the Capers knew who she was and that she wouldn’t have a problem with it.
“Every year I post a picture of my pumpkin,” said Merritt. “They knew I get a kick out of it.”
Sure enough, in their letter, the Capers wrote, “We borrowed one pumpkin from Merritt Jewelers to give to the city police. We knew Barb would not mind.”
The Pequot Lakes Police Department had a bit of fun with their new pumpkin as well. In response to the Capers, they posted on Facebook, joking that an investigation was underway to uncover the thief.
“It’s fun to keep it light, and we thought we’d play back,” said Jen Anderson, police department office manager. “Social media has been a really good resource for the department and we like to bring a little humor into it sometimes.”
The Capers said they hear a lot of feedback around town that people love the idea. They said it has become a cherished yearly tradition, and keeping it alive is now also a way to honor the founding member, who passed away in spring of 2017.
“It’s a cool idea for a small community like this,” said Schmidt. “I want to thank whoever is doing this.”
The Capers said they plan to continue this tradition as long as there are willing and able participants, and the town keeps providing pumpkins for the group to decorate.
It may never be revealed who the mysterious Capers are, but their work is becoming a legacy in Pequot Lakes.