Who can carve the spookiest Jack-O-Lantern of them all?

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When the air gets crisp and the leaves start to change colors, we know it's almost time for one thing: pumpkin carving. This year's crop of pumpkins is just waiting to be transformed into something spooktacular, and one of the most fun ways to do just that is to host a pumpkin-carving party or competition for all of your loved ones.

Ready to start planning your own event? Here, Gary McCoy, store manager at Lowes, shares his insight on how to host a pumpkin-carving competition or party this Halloween.

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Gather Your Supplies

Just as you'd prep for the necessary supplies when planning a birthday party, there are a number of must-haves you'll need in order to pull off a flawless pumpkin-carving party. In addition to carving utensils, like knives, spoons, and scrapers, you'll also want to stock up on plastic drop cloths, cookie sheets, stencils, and wipes.

And you can't forget about the pumpkins! If you're providing gourds for everyone to carve, plan for one per person, plus a few extras should anything go awry. McCoy also recommends purchasing one pumpkin carving kit ($5, target.com) per person, as this is the easiest way to ensure sure you have enough tools to go around.

Party Setup

After pumpkins and supplies have been purchased, set everything up on plastic drop cloths. This makes for easy clean-up. Having cookie trays readily available to place pumpkin seeds (which you can bake later!) is also essential in maintaining a tidy carving party setup.

In order to help get everyone's creative juices flowing, have some carving inspiration on-hand for guests to review prior to carving. McCoy recommends implementing creative carving ideas as a part of your party décor. "Have some inspiration pictures ready for your guests," he says, but only if there's no prize at the end for best pumpkin!

Party Décor

In addition to pumpkins, choose a few Halloween-themed accessories to set the spooky mood for your carving competition. McCoy loves a pre-lit pumpkin garland ($17.48, lowes.com), orange string lights ($21.11, lowes.com), and Jack-O-Lantern placemats ($39.20, lowes.com) for setting the right mood.

Sara Murray of Confetti and Co. also suggests setting the mood with thematic food and drink. "A pumpkin spice-flavored drink and lots of treats that all are pumpkin infused will really drive the theme home!," she says.

Post Carving

After prizes for the best, scariest, and most creative pumpkins have been awarded, you'll want to preserve the blue ribbon carvings for as long as possible. McCoy recommends mixing three teaspoons of Clorox Regular Bleach2 ($6.19, target.com) in three gallons of water and adding the solution to a labeled spray bottle. After the pumpkins have been carved, liberally mist them with this solution to help preserve them.

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