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 14th 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 shrunken head gallery, “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. “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.)
No no, that’s not weirdly terrifying in the slightest. Nope. Uh-uh.
The Great Pumpkin Blaze opening weekend is Friday, September 28 through Sunday the 30th, then runs daily through November 4. It continues during extended weekends through November 24. For times and tickets, visit https://websales.hudsonvalley.org/ecommerce/blaze.aspx.