There is no exaggeration in the name The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze that bedazzles scores of families and kids up in Croton-On-Hudson’s Van Cortlandt Manor beginning in September and ending right after Thanksgiving Day. The event is still packing them in even though Halloween was nearly two weeks ago.
The draw is more than just viewing carved pumpkins, but the ginormous amount of them, in variety of intricate and fun designs from Celtic Knots to famous faces, from lions and tigers, to the Statue of Liberty. Over 10,000 live pumpkins are brought in every year from Wallkill View Farms in Ulster County, and over the course of months are delicately carved by over 2,000 talented volunteers headed by chief carver, Cheryl Bernstein.
After walking through the welcome tent, guests can stop at the gift shop, or head right on through to the start of the path that features themes in every direction. There’s the skeleton theme, a Jurassic Park section complete with dinosaurs, an Undersea Aquarium, Buzzing Beehive, and Flesh-Eating Plants. Professional lighting, an original Blaze score of Halloween-style music, and since the event begins at sundown, the dark nights finish off the perfect blend of ambience.
Yes, the Blaze, as its press materials state, pays tribute to Halloween but also to Sleepy Hallow Country, and the architecture and history of Van Cordlandt Manor. Creative Director, Michael Natiello, said that “the manor was the true inspiration for the Blaze and the arrangements and placements of pumpkins are meant to complement and draw attention to the site’s landscape.” Every year, there’s something new in the mix so that if you went last year, you can always return to see new exhibits like the 20-foot Pumpkin Carousel spin, the Pumpkin Possum Posse and Plus-Sized Pumpkins. (Try to say that five times fast!)
One stunning collection of pumpkins features a variety of Celtic Knots, the work of Cheryl Bernstein. With a background in art and history, Cheryl’s carvings provide a peek into the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, who according to folklore was associated with the first jack o’lantern. And since we’re on the subject, the term “pumpkin” evolved from a French explorer who referred to them as “gros melons,” which turned into “pompions,” and over time became the word so associated with Halloween.
When done walking the pumpkin path, which takes about an hour, complete it with a hot chocolate and apple cider donut. This Fall favorite is a combination family event, but also an opportunity to admire the finished products of many creative minds and volunteers who will ensure that the Blaze will stay great year after year.
Top photo: A view of the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson on September 28, 2017. (Photo by Tom Nycz)
Other photos by Emily Goff.
Van Cortlandt Manor is located on South Riverside Avenue off Route 9 in the village of Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County.
Visit the website for Blaze for tickets for available nights.
Tickets are $20 for adults ($25 on Fridays and Saturdays) and $16 for children ages 3-17 ($20 on Fridays and Saturdays). Children under 3 are free and do not need a ticket.
Blaze is handicapped accessible, as there are no stairs to negotiate through the installation. However, there are some narrow and slightly sloped brick paths and it is a walk-through experience along uneven, unpaved, soft-surface terrain. Handicapped parking is available, but your car must display a handicapped placard or plate.
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