by Rick Pezzullo –
Halloween is just around the corner, and for the last 15 years The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson has wowed hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Presented by Historic Hudson Valley (HHV), the largest non-profit cultural organization in Westchester County, the Blaze, which features more than 7,000 illuminated jack o’lanterns—designed and hand-carved on site by a team of artisans—will make memories for a record 49 nights.
The electrifying fun began on September 20 and will continue until November 30—utilizing more than 200,000 pounds of pumpkins.
Attendance at the Blaze, widely acclaimed as one of the nation’s best fall extravaganzas, has increased 870% since it debuted in 2005. Last year, more than 180,000 visitors walked the carefully crafted path. This year, more than 250,000 people are expected to enjoy the Halloween season at the Blaze and other events in the area.
Creative Director Michael Natiello leads a small team of Historic Hudson Valley staff and local artists who carve. In addition, more than 1,000 volunteers help scoop and light the pumpkins.
New creations this year on the grounds include the Sleepy Hollow Headless Horseman Bridge and a Museum of Pumpkin Art. Returning favorites include the Pumpkin Zee Bridge, Pumpkin Carousel, Statue of Liberty, aquatic creatures, medieval castle and signs of the zodiac.
The leisurely walk is accompanied by a spooky soundtrack created by musician, radio personality and Halloween fanatic Richard Christy. The new tracks, plus soundtracks from “Blaze: The Soundtrack Volume I & II” are available as digital downloads and streams from iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze Shop offers a full bounty of Blaze-specific merchandise such as candles, hats, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs and jewelry.
In addition, Café Blaze, by Geordane’s of Irvington, offers culinary treats, including soup, veggie chili, muffins, pumpkin cookies and cider. Adult beverages available are wine by the glass, hard cider from 1911 and beer from the Elmfsord-based Captain Lawrence Brewing Company.
Timed tickets to the Blaze can only be purchased online at www.hudsonvalley.org. Tickets start at $23 for adults and $17 for children (ages 3-17). Tickets for children two and under and HHV members are free. For more information, call (914) 366-6900.
Historic Hudson Valley also has other Halloween-themed shows in the area. Horseman’s Hollow, back for a spine-tingling 10th year, transforms historic Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow into an 18th century village driven mad by The Headless Horseman. Award-winning makeup and costume designers and a 40-member cast of actors put on an interactive, terrifying experience with state-of-art special effects.
Horseman’s Hollow is held 16 nights (Oct. 4-6; 11-13; 18-20; 25-27; 31 and Nov. 1-3). Online tickets are $22 ($28 on Saturdays). Visit www.hudsonvalley.org.
The Unsilent Picture, based on the Washington Irving story “The Adventure of the Mysterious Picture,” was shot on location at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton. The movie experience is held at Philipsburg Manor throughout October. Online tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.
Other events are “The Sleepy Hollow Experience,” an interactive performance at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside which features professional musicians and singers; “Home of the ‘Legend,’” a family-friendly daytime event at Sunnyside that includes a spooky tour of Irving’s home, a scavenger hunt, storytellers and other games; and “Irving’s Legend,” where master storytellers Jonathan Kruk and Jim Keyes offer dramatic readings of Irving’s classic tale,” The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”