OGDEN -- Bonnie Winward and Carlos Araujo's idea of a hot date was to spend four hours carving away at pumpkins Saturday, but the results had them both beaming.
"What a great first date," Winward, 24, of Ogden, kept saying as she put the finishing touches on her pumpkin -- a "Jack" face from the "Nightmare Before Christmas" movie.
Winward and Araujo, 23, of North Ogden, have been friends for years, but Saturday at Ogden's Witchstock really was their first date in a long time because Winward has been off having massive medical problems.
A car wreck in 2005 half-paralyzed her, she came down with epilepsy and then other brain issues, had brain surgery that cured the epilepsy, and now here she is, finally normal again, surrounded by witches, goblins, skeletons and phantoms, carving a death's-head in a pumpkin.
It all seemed to fit, she said.
Pumpkin carving was just one part of Witchstock on Historic 25th Street.
The block between Lincoln and Wall avenues was closed off to traffic and given over to sellers of magical impedimenta, an outdoor music hall and food vendors.
A magician on stage changed orange hankies into egg yolks. A cadaverous photographer invited people to be photographed in his coffin. Sonorous organ music wafted through the chilled air as witches wandered at random.
They were waiting for a formal tea party for witches at Union Station.
One coven of early arrivals, led by Lynette Pagano and bedecked in peaked hats, colored boas and billowing black dresses, said they had an hour to kill while the tea steeped, so they were taking in the sights.
What's the secret to being a good witch?
"You harm no one," Pagano said. "That means you don't want to be a bad witch. No bad hexes."
"If you do, it comes back at you 10 times," said Aimee Case, and Pagano thought about that for a second, smiled and pronounced with authority: "Always practice safe hex!"
Araujo's pumpkin project involved an intricate dragon he'd first sketched on the gourd with a marker. He then carefully carved out bits and pieces, sometimes piercing the hollowed-out pumpkin's shell, but often not.
"This is my second pumpkin ever," he said. "I like to paint and draw, and doing this, with the bumps, is hard. I have to think about what to cut and what not."
He was taking this carving seriously. The competition provided small knives and other tools, but Araujo had brought his own knives, files and whittling implements.
Kristen Bogue, of Brigham City, who was helping stage the competition, said Araujo's dedication is not surprising.
Pumpkin carving once involved cutting triangular eyes and a nose, and a jagged mouthy grin and calling it good.
In the past decade, it has become high art.
"I think the Dremel tool," a brand of hand-held spinning file that is capable of quickly carving out pumpkin matter, "was huge," she said.
"And the thought that 'I don't have to carve all the way through' opened up a whole world for people.
"And the 3-D sculpture where the face comes out of the pumpkin, that is huge."
Their web page, www.pumpkinpage.com, offers a bevy of patterns, instructions and advice for prospective pumpkin carvers, but she said she's not worried about giving away any trade secrets.
The money is in being really good at it, she said.
"We can take anybody's portrait and carve it into a pumpkin with intricate detail."