A Tour Through The Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze At Croton-on-Hudson

by Hannah Means Shannon

Last October 22nd, the only date available for tickets when I checked a couple of months ago, I took a tour of the now famous Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze at Croton-on-Hudson in New York State. Not far from New York City, and even closer to the famously haunted town of Sleepy Hollow, the Blaze, as it’s commonly known, attracts over 100,000 visitors every year and is, judging by word of mouth and ticket sales, all the rage.

So I finally committed to getting tickets well ahead and the experience was overwhelmingly worth the ticket price and travel. With warm, mellow weather, and a day spent roaming the cemetery at Sleepy Hollow beforehand, I was definitely in the mood to celebrate Halloween by nightfall.

You can read statistics online about the thousands of pumpkins used to create artful displays at the Blaze, but nothing really prepares you for seeing it. As jaded as we are by amusement parks and engineered thrills these days, something about a purely handcrafted experience has a stronger and more lasting affect on viewers. All the pumpkins, partly real pumpkins, and partly fake pumpkins, are hand-carved starting in the summer months to prepare for the often gigantic and intricate arrangements at the Blaze.

I could try to describe the experience, which was at times charming, at times downright creepy and alien feeling, but photos will probably convey more:

The Blaze takes place at an estate dating from the 1600’s, Van Courtland Manor, and the location definitely brings atmosphere to the event. Through some of the displays, which contain informational plaques, you learn more about the various art forms that have been developed over time for presenting images made of light, as you will see throughout the Blaze.

You’ll be impressed by the ingenuity and imagination of the craftspeople who created this experience, but you’ll also, by the end, feel like these creatures made of pumpkins are taking on a life of their own and might just want the place to themselves. Watch your back! That pumpkin spider is definitely out for some human-flavored dinner!

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