The Great Jack O' Lantern Blaze returns once again to the Hudson Valley with over 100,000 pounds of pumpkin lighting up the historic waterfront. Under the direction of Van Cortlandt Manor Creative Director Michael Natiello, more than 1,000 volunteers and 14 artists made this haunting Halloween event possible. Since its first run in 2005, the annual event has quadrupled in size attracting over 80,000 visitors last year. This year's event promises to be a blow out as well. It's the final week for the Blaze, and tickets are already sold out for Friday and Saturday, but if you act fast, you can still catch it this Thursday, November 3 or Sunday, November 6.
The land art installation takes place at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor. According to Natiello, the Manor’s landscape is very important as it provided the original inspiration for the Blaze, along with the work of artists such as Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd and Andy Goldsworthy. The pumpkins are arranged in such a way that accentuates the site’s architecture, history, and landscape, and the professional lighting designed by Jay Woods brings an eerie dimension of movement to the scene.
It takes a huge amount of human power to make the event possible. As not all of the pumpkins survive the full five-week period, 4,000 are ordered so some can be replaced throughout the course of the event. Several “art pumpkins” are also on view. These pumpkins are not real and are reserved for especially intricate carving jobs or for placement in historic buildings which could be damaged by residue from live ones. The real pumpkins weigh between five and fifty pounds and are scooped and cleaned by a team of volunteers who then pass them on for carving. Each of the 21 nights of the event requires that 15 to 20 volunteers arrive about three hours before it is open to the public to light the votive candles that bring each pumpkin to life.
A series of themes dominate the display. Greece features mythological characters. Visitors will be spooked by mummies, pyramids and ancient tombs in Egypt or they can swim through fish and other ocean creatures in the Undersea Aquarium. Jurassic Park was created in homage to the Great Paleozoic Museum, a venue originally planned for Central Park but never brought to fruition. Here you’ll find the likes of a huge T-rex and stegosaurus depicting their exact skeletal structure.
More than just a visual feast, the Blaze is also a treat to the ears. Spooky original scores by the likes of Kosmiche Motte, Margaret Vetare & Bill Ochs and Jim Keyes accompany the lit up scene. To ignite your olfactory senses, check out food at Café Blazé by Geordanes of Irvington. Special festive offerings include items such as pumpkin cookies, veggie chili, and cider. Expect to spend at least 45 minutes to fully appreciate the great artistic night landscape. Due to storm damage, it is yet to be announced if the Blaze will be open tonight. You can also try to catch it Thursday through Sunday, November 3 to the 6, but it is highly advised that you reserve tickets in advance.
Images via The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze