For UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Agricultural Education and Communication (AEC) alumnus Chad Gainey, Halloween is not only just his favorite holiday, it’s a chance to showcase his spooktacular pumpkin carvings on the hit TV show, “Halloween Wars.”
Gainey and his family have watched the show since it first appeared on Food Network, never imagining he would compete twice on the hit series.
In 2016, Gainey swapped out his usual wood carvings for pumpkins when he first competed on season six. He returned this year for season 10, but said he felt more relaxed and less nervous having already competed on the show once before.
Each team comprises a cake decorator, a sugar master, and – Gainey’s specialty – an expert pumpkin carver. Teams must work together to complete difficult, time-sensitive challenges.
Gainey’s favorite carving from this season was an elaborate Kraken-like figure carved from pumpkins, with tentacles running throughout the display. The finished product was a massive beast, encompassing a 6-by-6-foot platform and spanning 10 feet total.
Gainey first learned how to use a chainsaw in his family’s logging business. After graduating from UF, Gainey became a sales representative for a tractor company. When the agriculture teacher position opened at the high school in his hometown in Bonifay, Fla., Gainey switched careers. It was here where he started experimenting with chainsaw art. The school’s art teacher became his mentor and encouraged him to practice carving.
Gainey’s talent led him to become an ambassador for Husqvarna, a chainsaw company, in 2015. After teaching for seven and a half years, Gainey took a leap of faith, turning his hobby into a full-time business.
He advises others interested in changing their careers to have faith in themselves because the scariest part is the career change itself.
“You have to get yourself out there and make that jump because it is pretty scary to start with,” Gainey said. “As long as you’re working hard and committed to what you’re doing, it always works out for the best.”
While his degree helped him better understand the science behind each wood species, Gainey credits the life skills he learned while a UF-CALS student as the most helpful skillset for running his chainsaw art business.
Living and working on the Beef Teaching Unit taught Gainey the people skills he still uses today. Whether it was working with UF/IFAS researchers or other student workers, Gainey learned responsibility, organization and how to work with different people, all skills he used when competing on “Halloween Wars,” too.
Gainey’s top tips for carving pumpkins are to sketch your design on the pumpkin with a washable marker and use a handsaw instead of a knife for fine-tooth carving. For preserving your pumpkin, spray lemon juice on the finished product to eliminate bacteria and mold, as well as refrigerate your pumpkin when it is not on display.
Celebrate Halloween this year by catching up on season 10 of “Halloween Wars” on the Food Network and trying out some of Gainey’s pumpkin carving tips!