Every year, thousands and thousands of pumpkins—all designed and individually carved on site by a team of artisans—illuminate Van Cortlandt Manor’s riverside landscape as part of The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze. After marveling at all of the carefully crafted creations, it’s safe to say you’ll have ideas of your own firing away in your head.
To fashion your spooky visions at home, you must first find the perfect pumpkin, says Michael Natiello, creative director of the annual event. “The color of the pumpkin indicates how good or bad it is for carving. Rich orange indicates that it’s a perfect pumpkin. If it’s heavy for its size, that means it has a lot of pulp and a lot of carveable area.”
Next, select your tools. If you haven’t invested in kid-friendly carving kits, use whatever you can find in your kitchen. Simple utensils like steak knives make great first cuts, X-ACTO blades work best for fine-tuning lines, and slotted spoons are ideal for scooping out seeds.
What most people tend to forget is that pumpkins are produce and should be treated as such. “When your pumpkin is not on display, keep it in the refrigerator and store it in a dark place,” reveals Natiello. “To deter insects from feasting on the fruit’s flesh, rinse the insides of the pumpkin with warm, soapy water and brush the outside with Vaseline or oil to prevent rot and mold.
With these tips, your lanterns will surely last throughout the scaring season.