Elgin woman paints and hides mini-pumpkins for people to find

Thanks to the brightly painted, Halloween-themed mini-pumpkins she hides around Elgin every October, Danyelle Luce is known to many as “The Pumpkin Lady.”

The treasure hunt she creates — each pumpkin includes a clue to its location — is a small way to brighten someone’s day, she said.

“I have so much fun doing it,” Luce said. “It’s just something little that I enjoy doing, and to see people enjoying it makes me happy too.”

She credits her inspiration to the COVID-19 pandemic, when she noticed people leaving hand-painted rocks around the city.

“I thought, ‘I love pumpkins. I’ll start doing it with pumpkins,’” Luce said. “I didn’t think people would get into it, but people loved it. It wasn’t just little kids enjoying it, but adults and teenagers too, which is awesome.”

A self-taught artist, Luce’s images run the gamut from vampire bats, giant eyeballs and Morticia and Gomez Addams to mermaids, teddy bears and even Betty Boop.

“I try to make it kid friendly but some are scary as well,” she said. “I try to be creative and do fun things.”

Luce starts by creating a design and then painting it onto a tiny pumpkin using acrylic paints, which are nontoxic.

“I have bad anxiety (so) this is a way for me to be creative and gives me an outlet. It eases my anxiety,” she said. “If I can ease my anxiety and make someone’s day, it seems to be an all-around good thing.”

These are some of Danyelle Luce's Halloween creations, which she hides around Elgin for people to find every October.

Her family loves Halloween as much as she does — she and her husband had a Halloween-themed wedding — so they help her hide the painted gourds every weekend. She gets the word out by posting a photo of the hidden pumpkin on the “What’s Happening in Elgin IL” Facebook page.

Sometimes, the image is the clue, Luce said.

“I painted a couple of eyeballs on one and put it outside an optical place,” she said. The alien pumpkin was left outside the Elgin National Watch Co. Observatory.

Whenever someone finds one, she asks that they post a photo so she can keep track of what’s still out there, Luce said. It usually doesn’t take long before they’re located because people have gotten pretty good at tracking them down, she said.

Elgin resident Danyelle Luce is a self-trained artist who puts her skills to the test every October when she paints mini-pumpkins to hide around town. This year she has done between 800 and 100, she said.

The hunt has gotten bigger over the last few years. This October, she has between 80 and 100 pumpkins to hide, she said.

She had been getting them from a family friend with a pumpkin farm but now she buys them herself, with a little help from the donations she receives from people who want her to continue the tradition.

Luce gets a kick out of “The Pumpkin Lady” nickname, and she’s often asked about her current pumpkin projects when she’s waiting on customers at Paul’s Family Restaurant in Elgin, where’s she’s also the pastry chef.

Her following even includes teenagers, one group of which brought her a bouquet of flowers as a thank you, she said.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Luce said.

Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.