Smilin’ Jack


smilin_20jack_smallIf you grew up in the South Bay like I did (Wilmington in particular), your Halloween just wasn’t complete until you and your family paid a visit to Smilin’ Jack (see image).

It’s a tradition that has taken place for the last 60 years and the local residents love it. So what exactly happens when you go and visit what’s touted as the World’s Largest Jack-O’-Lantern?

It’s pretty simple. You head on down to the ConocoPhillips refinery, sit in what could become one heck of a long line of cars, and wait as they begin to roll into the refinery parking lot.

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Here’s when you have time to reminisce about your past visits to see Jack. Like all the times I recall Dad taking me during the short 7 years we had together, or the time me and Ann were the last car in line – they literally closed the gate behind us – and the volunteers threw what seemed to be a million bags of caramel corn into my car. Good times for sure.

Caramel corn? What? That’s right – everybody you see in front of me in the picture above is waiting in line for bags of caramel corn, the most delicious caramel corn I’ve had in my life. Maybe it’s just because it’s a long-standing tradition and my childhood memories come flowing back to me with each visit, maybe it’s because I always feel comfortable haunting my old hometown of Wilmington. Either way, it’s my opinion that this caramel corn is simply awesome.

As you continue to wait your turn, Smilin’ Jack becomes clearer until finally, you reach your destination and get your goodies with Jack overlooking the festivities.

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Costumed volunteers happily handed us bags of the delicious treat and I even scored a 76 antenna ball which was definitely a first. What shocked me was that the bags weren’t thrown in the car as they had been in the past, which was part of the fun of going. But I’ll settle for the memory of taking Anthony for the first time and look forward to many, many more visits. It’s a silly tradition yet very sentimental for me to take him and tell him stories about Dad, growing up in that area, showing him the hospital where I was born, etc.

And besides…

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…what kid would say NO to this? And if I don’t get a chance to say it tomorrow, I’ll do it now. I wish you all a very happy and safe Halloween. Watch out for the kids and drive safely! We’re looking forward to a fun, cool evening of trick-or-treating 🙂

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