By Dave Zucker and Sabrina Sucato
Started as a local celebration in 2005, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson celebrates its 17th spookiversary in grand fashion, with more pumpkins—over 7,000 this year!—and more elaborate attractions than ever.
Each Blaze features intricate light sculptures and landscapes built entirely from lit, ornately carved pumpkins. Fan favorites like the Headless Horseman, Statue of Liberty, pumpkin planetarium, and the Pumpkin Bridge — née the “Pumpkin Zee Bridge” — are reconstructed yearly from gourds (as well as longer-lasting artificial “Funkins”), along with a rotating assortment of new designs. Recent additions of a New York cityscape and jellyfish walk-through, as well as upgraded galleries of pumpkin-y masterpieces and dinosaur skeletons have all proved popular.
Even so, Historic Hudson Valley assures that this year’s rendition of the Blaze is bigger, better, and more widespread than ever. In addition to its signature location in Croton-on-Hudson, last year it also debuted a new location at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, a historic site on Long Island in Nassau County.
“We are fortunate and excited to be able to offer Blaze in two locations,” Historic Hudson Valley VP of Communications and Commerce Rob Schweitzer enthuses. “Given the huge popularity of Blaze in Croton, we’ve long wanted to reach out to another historic site that could benefit from the exposure Blaze offers.”
2021 marks some big changes for the Blaze, both in terms of attractions and procedures. A “Blazing River” tribute to the Croton and Hudson rivers with high-flying jellyfish, a new ceramic pumpkin exhibit, and an homage to New York City — complete with pigeons, EMS and NYPD, and a dirty-water hot dog cart — are all brand-new this year. Fan-favorite installations like the museum of pumpkin art and the dinosaur gallery have also received major updates, while new lighting and music makes even longstanding sculptures feel new again.
Beer, wine, cider, and snacks also make a glorious return this year after last year’s COVID-abbreviated festivities.
Unvaccinated guests over the age of 12 are required to wear masks while attending the Blaze. Fully vaccinated guests may attend au naturale when not indoors. All guests must agree to a COVID Courtesy Code.
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If the Blaze preview is any indication, this year’s event is sure to be unforgettable. The hand-carved vignettes in Croton range in scope from Halloween classics like witches around a bubbling cauldron and a highly detailed headless horseman to a Hansel and Gretel display and a cute scene of a cat being rescued by firefighters. In total, more than two dozen stops filled with larger-than-life scenes, synchronized lighting, and an original soundscape await Hudson Valley visitors.
Tickets for both Jack O’Lantern Blazes are available online now, and all proceeds benefit Historic Hudson Valley’s educational programs. The Hudson Valley version runs from September 17 to November 21, with tickets by time slot starting at $40. The Long Island experience, meanwhile, extends from September 22 to November 7. Tickets begin at $32 and adhere to designated time slots for visitors.