Chemistry Club Annual Halloween Show Turns Chemists into Performers

October 20, 2023

by Megan Collins '24

"Puking pumpkins" is a popular trick at the annual show. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

The Bucknell University Chemistry Club Halloween Show annually dazzles young people with fire-breathing pumpkins, foamy explosions and spooky science. At the same time, it allows students the creative liberty to not only plan the show's chemical tricks, but to also get the treat of performing them before a standing-room-only audience.

This year's show will take place Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. in its traditional McDonnell Hall amphitheater location. Chemistry Club students will also host Halloween kids' activity tables for all young people on the Swartz Hall patio prior to the show, starting at 5 p.m.


There are plenty of fire-related tricks in the annual Chemistry Club Halloween Show. Photo by Emily Paine, Communications

Chemistry Club student leaders have taken on more responsibility for planning this year.

"This year we increased our executive board and added two committee positions for the Halloween show," says Marla Forfar '24, chemistry, the club's president. "It has been more student-focused, and we meet weekly to help plan everything."

The club's expanded executive board has worked with chemistry faculty to order supplies, determine what specific chemicals are needed for each trick, and promote the show in the downtown Lewisburg community.

What started seven years ago as a small, fun event for club members has grown immensely, and now has an audience that ranges from 400 to 600 people annually. Pulling off a larger event requires more planning. Club members start preparation in early July. Bucknell Student Government also provides show funding.

Over time, long-time organizer Professor David Rovnyak, chemistry, and the students have found a standard set of tricks that entertains the audience. That regular routine has proven helpful now that Rovnyak has had to take a sabbatical break, but the student leaders have made a few exciting changes this year.

Some of the tricks can be dangerous if not performed properly.

"You need to know what chemicals you’re actually dumping into the pumpkins before it actually explodes everywhere just in case it gets on you," Forfar says.

"It is a great opportunity for chemistry students to put their education into practice," Rovnyak adds.

While a background in science and chemistry is helpful, show participation is open to students of all majors. Chemistry Club members teach them everything they need to know about the science and the tricks prior to the performance.

It all comes together to put science into action and give student scientists a chance to become the stars of the show.

"Especially with all of the little kids that come to the show, they get so excited and they're cheering for you, it definitely feels more like a performance than just doing the lab work," says Maddy Hinkle '24, chemistry, the club's vice president. "It almost feels like you’re doing a magic show for them. Just seeing their faces light up is one of the most special aspects of participating in the show."

The pre-show activities' tables allow young participants to experience different experiments. Most tables provide children with souvenirs so they can continue the experiments at home. The Lewisburg Children's Museum sponsors one of the tables.

"Taking our passion for chemistry and giving it to the kids is something that we do by having the Halloween show, and we hope to inspire them to be future scientists," Forfar says.

Attendees are encouraged to wear spooky costumes.