I am a city girl.
Born and bred in Brooklyn, I feel most at home in cities whether in this country or abroad.
But as of late I have been realizing that there are a handful of places in my home state of New York that have I strong feelings for. Sleepy Hollow is definitely one of them especially during this time of year.
A couple of years ago I started visiting realizing how many beautiful, historic, and unique attractions there were here. All of that while maintaining that small town feel.
Two years ago I took part in my first Sleepy Hollow Halloween activity; a nighttime tour of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Though I have yet to read the tale with a similar name, I was hooked.
This year I have returned to complete another Halloween activity that I had been hearing so much about: The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze.
Also known on Instagram as #pumpkinblaze I struggle to explain how magnificent and magical this experience was.
The Blaze takes place every year at Van Cortlandt Manor which is a historic home that dates back to the Revolutionary War. I have been longing to visit, hence it is on my current annual to do list. Sadly, the home itself is only open for tours July - August. Though I still want to visit I have to say after experiencing the Blaze on this landmarked grounds, I feel like I will be disappointed if I visit on a normal day.
The Blaze itself dates back to 2005 and consists of over seven thousand individual pumpkins that are carved by over one thousand volunteers into shapes and structures that have pop culture and historical significance. Each year there are new creations and no two Pumpkin Blazes are the same. This year is the largest celebration so far.
There is a combination of real and artificial pumpkins used affectionately called as “funkins”. The entire process starts at the end of August and continues throughout the event as the real pumpkins get replaced as they start to decay. It is estimated that they go through about a thousand real pumpkins a week. Those that have out lived their use are composted thought the area.
From the first moment I learned about the Blaze, I kept thinking back to another holiday activity that I love: The Holiday Train Show. The Holiday Train Show takes place every year (beginning right around this time) in the Bronx at the New York Botanical Garden. Though the title can be confusing because the real show stoppers there are the very many miniature versions of NYC landmarks made entirely by plants! It is truly something to see.
I had no idea what to expect when visiting the Blaze. The only thing I knew was that it was a self guided tour, with timed entry (its best to purchase tickets ahead as they sell out), and takes place outdoors rain or shine.
I can now also inform you that there are tents set up to purchase souvenirs, beverages (even some including alcohol), and snacks. They are also bathrooms available. It is also one of the most organized events of any kind I have ever been to! Even the parking was super simple. This was clearly not their first rodeo.
I was very lucky the night I visited (last Thursday) as the weather couldn’t have been more delightful. As my mother pointed it “you didn’t even feel like you were outside”. You really didn’t. It wasn’t windy or cold, nor was it raining which is what I was most concerned about.
It took my group of eight about an hour and fifteen minutes to go through the entire Blaze. That included the almost constant stopping for photos and videos. It also included many moments where I just stood there stunned at what I was seeing and pointing out something else I couldn’t wait to get closer to.
I was very pleasantly surprised that while it was dark out, the path to follow was clearly marked and roped off. There were several other lights that weren’t illuminating from pumpkins and that helped. After touring Sleepy Hollow Cemetery with only a kerosine lantern in my hand I was experiencing some PTSD. But here I never felt like I was in danger of spraining my ankle.
But how about those pumpkins!!
Besides the mind blowing designs - we’ll get to that in a minute - it was the sounds that brought the whole experience to life.
Take for instance the Jack-In-The-Boxes (there were two) that had a base of numerous individual carved pumpkins and played that infamous song as if you were cranking it yourself. Then once the Jacks popped up they were lit in different colors.
There was the carousel that was moving and were composed of the skeletons of the horses you would normally see. This twenty foot working pumpkin carousel was the brainchild of William Dentzel: an actual descendant of the man who built the first carousel in this country!!
I loved that as you entered the Headless Horseman’s Bridge you heard him galloping past you and could feel the shaking as if his horse was right next to you.
I loved that the Circus Train had smoke blowing and that “choo choo” sound playing while each car had a different animal “in” it.
I loved that the Statue of (freaking) Liberty which stands twenty-five feet tall was made with one hundred and fourteen pumpkins! It also has a torch that kept changing colors and illuminating the night sky.
I loved the Museum of Pumpkin Art featured a rendering of “The Scream” that had a headless horseman in the background.
It was also nice that before you walk through the Blaze there was a massive rainbow flag (of course made of pumpkins) commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots. It was a great touch.
My entire group loved the Pumpkin Blaze as much as I did. Not one person had a complaint or was in a rush to leave. Each one of us was so impressed and that says a lot for naturally picky New Yorkers.
The Pumpkin Blaze is open until November 30 and I strongly urge, no screw that, I INSIST you go!!!!!
Spend the day in a town so charming you’ll forget it’s the basis for one of the spookiest stories of all time.
P.S. You might even see a celebrity or two. So far I have noticed that one of my favorite NYC Housewives Dorinda Medley visited. We both agree they “made it nice”!
For Nearby Attractions and Eats:
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (https://bit.ly/2NuMKC6)
J.P. Doyle’s (https://bit.ly/2NxXPTk)
For More Information: