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Pumpkins on display at Stockbridge hospital

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Pumpkins line the south entrance to the Henry Medical Center, but none of them is carved like traditional Jack O Lanterns. Instead, they are painted to resemble storybook characters -- in an effort to promote literacy.

The "parade of pumpkins" has been on display since Oct. 1, and is scheduled through Oct. 13, according to Lynna Schmidt, president of the Henry Arts Alliance.

Several groups and the arts alliance were asked to pick storybook characters and paint pumpkins featuring the characters. The pumpkins are part of the McDonough Library's annual fall festival, and they promote arts and literacy in the community, said Michelle Nunnally, public relations specialist for Henry Medical Center.

"Of course, the hospital wants to support the arts [and] support the community in this way," she said. "It's a wonderful thing for us to have them here. People come in, and they love looking at them. It promotes our arts and our literacy in the community, and the hospital is proud to be a part of that."

Literacy at an early age is critical, said Carolyn Fuller, director of the Henry County Library System.

"It's very important for children to begin their literacy training when they're born, [with] storybook characters, and anything that will excite them about things in a book," said Fuller. "A child needs to have a lot of literacy skills before they even attend kindergarten. We try everything we can to get them excited about books. The pumpkin parade is a good way to do it."

Artists decorated their pumpkins, and on Oct. 1, brought them to display at the hospital, at 1133 Eagles Landing Parkway, in Stockbridge. The groups that decorated the pumpkins included the Heritage Writers Group; G. Gallery Interiors and Custom Framing; the Henry Arts Alliance; the Visual Arts Collective of Henry County; Southern Orthopaedic Specialists in Stockbridge; McDonough Arts; and Teen Expressions, a group of students based in Stockbridge, who are involved in after-school arts activities.

Next to each pumpkin display are children's books, including "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?," "The Adventures of Smalley Tremont," "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back," "Judy Moody: Around the World in 8 1/2 Days," and "Grimm's Fairy Tales."

"The cool thing about this is, one of the things the Arts Alliance does, is we promote the arts, both visual and performing," Schmidt said. "People think of art, and they think of canvases, or paintings, or designs. Art can be anything, and this is art on, and with, pumpkins, which is something that kids, when they see it, will think, 'Oh, art can be anywhere, art can be anything,'... It's really quite awesome," said Schmidt.

The pumpkins will remain on display until Oct. 13, she said. At that time, they will be taken to the Heritage Senior Center in McDonough. The pumpkins will remain at the senior center until Oct. 15, when they will be moved again, this time to the Henry County Performing Arts Center (PAC).

Schmidt said on Oct. 21, the pumpkins will be moved to their final destination, the McDonough Branch Llibrary, where they will be on display at the library's fall festival on Oct. 22.