Debbie Lamont has run Bombaii Cutters, a hair salon in downtown Kirkland, for four decades.
Starting a few years ago, though, the business has become recognized as more than a go-to beauty shop. Recently, it’s become a Halloween staple in the community.
Around 2014, Lamont, in response to what she describes as the lack of holiday-themed events put on by the city and businesses around Kirkland, started hosting a pumpkin-carving contest at Bombaii’s home base.
“We had such good feedback on it,” Lamont said of the contest’s first year.
No registration is required to participate. Lamont said that if residents drop their pumpkin off by the shop a day or so before Halloween, and leave their names and contact information with her, their art will be displayed on the bench and sidewalk in front of her business. They usually remain there for about a week, or until rotting begins.
In addition to the pumpkins shared with her by residents, Lamont said she also typically has her employees submit their own pumpkins for the event.
By her estimate, Lamont had about 400 votes cast last year. She said she was able to keep count because there’s a mandate to the voting: prospective trick-or-treaters only receive candy if they’ve submitted their choice. Contest winners are contacted once the votes have been finalized and are then able to pick up a prize.
The event has proven itself popular with the public.
“We seem to be getting a bigger and bigger turnout because of the pumpkins,” Lamont said. “It’s just something fun.”
Lamont added that she’s been told by some customers that they make sure to come by every year to get a closer look at the pumpkins.
On average, Lamont shows off about 12 pumpkins. But she would prefer that the number get bigger — the goal is of somewhere between 20 and 30 pumpkins. Though the contest draws people in, a challenge Lamont regularly faces is that not a lot of people know exactly how they can participate. Lamont said that, even though she advertises on social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, she’s not sure how else to go about promotion.
“If the word got out, I’m sure more people would get involved,” she said.
For Lamont, it’s exciting to witness the creativity people exhibit. It’s been especially illuminating seeing what her employees are capable of, especially those she’s still getting familiar with.
“I just think it brings out people’s creativity and individualism,” she said. “You’ll have someone who works for you who you don’t know that well yet, and then they have a chance to do something to show off their personality… sometimes you don’t know someone can be that complex or that creative. It does bring out skills you don’t always know people have.”
There have been some standouts over the years. Last year, a community member brought in a Seahawks-themed pumpkin that made an impression. Lamont spoke particularly highly of a resident who had managed to carve into the pumpkin what appeared to be a full-on “mouse house.”
“She must have spent a full day on it…I was like, ‘I couldn’t believe this,’” Lamont recalled.
Lamont remembered that inside, the design included furniture and drapes, and even a bed with sheets.
“Some people just get really, really, really creative in what they do,” she said.
Lamont hopes that her contest not only encourages locals and outsiders alike to come to the community during the fall and winter months — a period during which Kirkland becomes, in Lamont’s words, “a ghost town” — but also businesses to go beyond trick-or-treating.
“It’s another way of letting the community know that we’re here seven days a week and that Kirkland is still alive in the winter,” Lamont said of the contest. “If other merchants would do things, too, other than just giving candy, it might stimulate downtown a little bit.”