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Scuba Stunts Make Art for Halloween

The niche sport of underwater pumpkin carving has found a home in the High Desert, providing benefits to Palmdale and its businesses. The Annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest, which drew maybe 10 or so people 13 years ago, now pulls in about 50 adults and kids, said Mike Orlando, president of the Antelope Valley Desert Divers, the organizers of the event. Contestants don wetsuits, scuba masks and air tanks to carve pumpkins 12 feet underwater in a community swimming pool. “We want to share what we know about the underwater world,” Orlando said. Making the event happen is a partnership, he explained. The city puts its marketing power and vast network behind the event to promote it, and allows the scuba diving hobbyist group sole access to the pool during the contest. In turn, the pre-Halloween event brings 50 or so people to Palmdale at a time when one of its tourist attractions, the DryTown Water Park, has closed for the season. And the contest, which aims to attract more people to scuba diving, could potentially lead contestants to PCH Scuba, which also has an Agoura Hills location, and Scuba Steve’s Dive Adventures. The two shops opened in Palmdale over the last year to fill the gap left behind after the local Sports Chalet and its scuba diving department closed. “Part of it is economic development because we have the two dive shops here,” said John Mlynar, Palmdale’s communications manager. One of the shops, PCH Scuba, gains visibility by donating dive equipment and air tanks for the event so people without their own equipment can still participate, Orlando said, who works as a manager for the retail business. Also reaping economic gain from the event is Vince’s Pasta & Pizza on Avenue S – where about 30 club members and contestants eat lunch afterwards. Ironically, the only entity that does not benefit economically from the contest is the event organizer, Desert Divers. Orlando said it’s a loss leader. The event costs $300 to $400 to rent the pool, pay at least two lifeguards and buy about 50 pumpkins that contestants then pay $6 each to carve and take home. The group also provides the small, serrated knives to carve the pumpkins and magic markers for children aged 5 to 10 to use to paint their pumpkins. Finally, members spend the night before the event removing the gourds’ insides, Orlando said. “We lose money on this,” he explained, but “it has been a lot of fun – that’s why we keep doing it.” This year the contest will be held Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at Palmdale Oasis Park Pool, 3850 E. Avenue S. – Carol Lawrence

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