The Northern Westchester Examiner

Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze Electrifying Fun in Croton

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2013 NWE 1015 Pumpkin BlazeThere is nothing else like it in the tri-state area, which explains the record crowds of nearly 100,000 visitors who descended upon Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson last year to gaze at the spooky spectacular.

Now in its ninth year, The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, which started out as a small event for Historic Hudson Valley to showcase the area during the Halloween season, has grown, by popular demand, to 25 nights to allow everyone a chance to get in on the fun. This year, the Blaze kicked off on October 5 and will continue through November 11.

The mastermind behind the Blaze is creative director Michael Natiello of Garrison. To survive the six weeks of shows, 100,000 pounds of pumpkins are ordered from an upstate farm. Each night, more than 5,000 jack o’lanterns are on display, about half of which are real and the other half are foam. However, each pumpkin is hand-carved and designed by one of the 15 talented carvers, who range from college students to senior citizens. More than 1,000 volunteers pitch in to make the Blaze a success.

At the Blaze, visitors meander through the historic, 18th century grounds and are greeted by pumpkins in various forms, such as slithering ground snakes, Jurassic Park dinosaurs, shrunken monsters, a doomsday grandfather clock, a giant spider web, and Jack-in-the-Boxes springing up and down, along with elaborate synchronized lighting and sound effects.

2013 NWE 1015 Pumpkin Blaze 2New this year is The Art of the Pumpkin exhibit, featuring works by 25area artists inspired by the artistry of pumpkin carving. “We were overwhelmed by the quality of the submissions,” Natiello said. “Clearly, pumpkins are a huge source of artistic inspiration even for those who don’t specialize in carving them.”

Some of the artists whose works were chosen for the exhibit were Sarah Haviland of Crompond, Jodi Carlson and Elizabeth Barksdale of Mahopac, Lisa Breznack and JoAnn Brody of Peekskill, Erica Mazzeo of Somers, Jim Lloyd of Katonah, A. Eric Arctander of Putnam Valley and Lea Bolotin of Yorktown.

2013 NWE 1015 Pumpkin Blaze 3Admission to the Blaze is by advance purchase timed tickets, with the first shows starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults ($20 on Saturdays) and $12 for children ages 3-17 ($16 on Saturdays). Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (914) 366-6900.

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