The Great Jack O’lantern blaze event began in 2005, creating a Halloween event like no other in the Historic Hudson Valley. On the grounds of the Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, the blaze has become more than a tribute to the Sleepy Hollow Country, it is a classic and immensely popular fall festival.
This year’s event is larger than ever before, with over 7,000 hand-carved jack o’lanterns lit up throughout the landscape. Themed areas include the Skeleton Emergence; Jurassic Park, featuring dinosaurs; a field of giant spiders and their woven web, a Buzzing Beehive and the Flesh-Eating Plants section.
Carving of the art pumpkins begins as early as June. The real pumpkins are carved throughout the run of Blaze. Prior to each event week, it takes volunteers several days of scooping pulp and seeds from the pumpkins to get them ready for the carvers. During each night of the event, it takes 15 to 20 volunteers to light the votive candles in the pumpkins. They start lighting about three hours before the event begins, and continue to monitor the grounds and help visitors on their path.
Find your favorite constellations and get star struck walking through the Pumpkin Planetarium. Easily the most popular display this year, my favorite, the tunnel had every visitor posing for that perfect selfie.
Watch the gourd-filled Jack-in-the-Boxes springing up and bouncing around to delight of all children. The massive slithering snakes through the field were so beautiful, they had me turning back for another glance. And the doomsday grandfather clock had us counting down our time left at the event.
The Blaze’s perennially popular Jurassic Park includes a triceratops, a pterodactyl, a brontosaurus, and a T-Rex, even more menacing with the added background score from Richard Christ.
With professional lighting, that enhances the carving artistry and transforms the Manor House into an amazing, ever-changing spectacle. Synchronized lighting means several of the installations appear to be moving.
Walk among the field of skeletons, where flying pumpkin ghosts will soar over your head in the front of the manor house. The historic Van Cortlandt manor is key to the land art installation pieces around it. While the children were excited about the dinosaurs and the massive spiders, the adults were mesmerized by the manor, as though imagining it were truly haunted.
Your kids will love the Circus Train rolling into town featuring a cast of colorful clowns and awesome animals. The wagon is almost life-size of a mini train, and had me jumping with delight.
A little history on the Jack O’lanterns – an ancient Irish legend holds that a man named Jack (or in some versions, “Stingy Jack”), too sinful to be admitted to heaven, was also denied entrance to hell. So he carved a turnip, lit it with a candle, and wandered the earth for a resting place, hence the name “Jack O’ Lantern.”
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze takes place on 30 evenings! You can walk through the grounds and see the displays in about 45 minutes. Visit October 2 through November 15. For dates and tickets, check their schedule, Historic Hudson Valley website.