Croton’s Annual Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze Is Back and Bigger Than Ever
Literally and figuratively, this yearly squash spectacle just keeps growing and growing.
Photos courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley
Started as a local celebration in 2005, The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson is now set to celebrate its 15th spookiversary in grand fashion, with more pumpkins—over 7,000 this year!—and more elaborate attractions than ever.
"We use a mix of real pumpkins and artificial, carvable pumpkins called Funkins,” says Rob Schweitzer, Vice President of Communications and Commerce for Historic Hudson Valley, the non-profit group primarily responsible for the Blaze’s organization and execution.
“We really start in earnest the end of August with carving Funkins,” he says, “then we’re carving real pumpkins throughout the run of the event, because we’re replacing about a thousand pumpkins every week.” That’s a lot of seeds and guts. (Don’t worry, though: Gourdish entrails, carved scraps, and “retired” pumpkins are all composted for the gardens at Historic Hudson Valley sites throughout the region.)
All those ‘kins — fun- and pump- alike — make for one incredible demonstration. Classics like the headless horseman (now with bridge!), “Plus-Sized Pumpkin Planetarium,” and twenty-five foot tall Statue of Liberty (composed of a staggering 114 individually carved pumpkins) will this year be joined by a sea serpent, tons of other aquatic creatures, and the ever popular Pumpkin Zee Bridge, along with the brand new "Museum of Pumpkin Arts" — with classic works, in pumpkin form — emoji pumpkins, and a massive rainbow flag celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
“The pumpkin sort of tells you what it wants to be,” Schweitzer says. “It may not be the perfect pumpkin for this idea I have in mind, but the pumpkin might have another idea and you end up carving that.”
All-Time Halloween Family Costume Champion Neil Patrick Harris is a big fan of the Blaze.
The grand achievement, however, is the Blaze's twenty-foot working pumpkin carousel designed by William Dentzel, a modern-day descendant of one of this country’s very first carousel makers. (Try overlaying it with Richard Christy’s fabulous two-volume Blaze: The Soundtrack and thank us later.)
The Great Pumpkin Blaze opening weekend is Friday, September 20 through Sunday the 22nd, then runs daily through November 3. It continues during extended weekends through November 30. For times and tickets, visit https://hudsonvalley.org/tickets/. Adult admission starts at $23, with minors starting at $17 and free for children 2 and under.