As far back as I can remember, there has been a special place in my heart reserved for Halloween. It’s so much more than a trivial holiday, and so much more than a fixed point on the calendar each year marking the change in seasons. Though I’ll confess: I’ve always loved the contradiction of the last gasps of a moribund summer lending to the the burgeoning intensity of a nascent fall.
For me, Halloween is a time of childlike wonder, creativity and imagination. It’s also a time for quick road trips and late evenings. There are apple orchards and pumpkin patches to visit. There are costume parties to attend. There are horror movies that I’ve added to my queue throughout the year, in anticipation of the perfectly curated scary movie marathon. And, of course, there is an overabundance of candy — at home, school, even the office. I mean, really, what’s not to like?
So it’s no surprise that The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, would make our to-do list. Billed as “the tri-state area’s biggest, most electrifying Halloween event”, I’m rather appalled to confess, dear readers, that this was our maiden journey. The annual event started back in 2005 and has continued to grow every year.
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze boasts attendance in the tens of thousands and regularly sells out. The cynic in me prepared for the possibility that the whole thing might simply be one giant tourist trap. And sure, without a doubt, the event has commercial aims, with foodstuff and merchandise slickly packaged and prominently displayed. But that doesn’t mean it reneges on its promise: you will see a hell of a lot of pumpkins, all elaborately staged and in a whimsical setting.
With more than seven thousand carved and illuminated pumpkins incorporated in such installations as the Jurassic Park, Pumpkin Zee Bridge, and of course, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze promises you’ll get your money’s worth. Each pumpkin you’ll see is hand-carved, and the extensive work involved for the event actually requires that they begin carving as early as June.
The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze runs through November 26, but remember, tickets go on sale September 1 and often sell out. They recently added new dates so pick them up while you still can!
525 S Riverside, Croton-on-Hudson
Pair it with:
Fall fixin’s from The Orchards of Concklin
What fall would be complete without a jug of apple cider and their glorious by-product, the cinnamon and sugar heaven of the apple cider donut? Not a one, I’ll tell you for a fact. But not to worry, various local farmers and other purveyors offer their wares at The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. The Orchards of Concklin have been pressing cider, baking pies and frying donuts for ten solid generations, and with street cred like that, you know they know what they are doing. Grab a cup of hot cider and a six pack for your drive home. I prefer to wait until I get home, wherein I heat a couple of them up in the microwave and top with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Trust me on this, you won’t be disappointed.