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The "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" in Sleepy Hollow: An Electrifying Event for Halloween

Updated on September 11, 2017
Casey White profile image

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. We love to see the costumes; and carved pumpkins and hay bails on the porches of our neighbors.

The "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" is an exciting ticketed event held each year in the small village of Sleepy Hollow in New York State.
The "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" is an exciting ticketed event held each year in the small village of Sleepy Hollow in New York State.

Jack-o'-Lanterns Are a Halloween Staple

Halloween is a time for making costumes, telling spooky stories about the headless horseman and ghosts, and pumpkin carving (jack-o'-lanterns). There are people all over the world that have the ability to carve some amazing pumpkins, but the village of Sleepy Hollow along the Hudson River in New York State has managed to transcend its Halloween roots by creating a display of lighted, carved pumpkins like nowhere else on earth. The "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" has been held there since 2005 and is once again expected to be a sold-out event in 2017 (understandable when you consider that the photos alone can cause people to have an experience of jaw-dropping disbelief).

So, if you are planning a vacation around Halloween this year, why not treat your children to a sight that they are not likely to see again in their lifetime. Details for this year's event are included below.

A dinosaur made completely of pumpkins at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" in Sleepy Hollow.
A dinosaur made completely of pumpkins at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" in Sleepy Hollow.
This long snake, at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze," is also made entirely of pumpkins carved by Michael Natiello, the creative director of the event.
This long snake, at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze," is also made entirely of pumpkins carved by Michael Natiello, the creative director of the event.

What to Expect at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" in 2017

This year you will be able to see a fully-functioning, 20-foot-diameter pumpkin carousel, displaying a variety of riders (jack-o'-lantern creatures). riding on a display that appears as if it is made entirely from pumpkins. Sorry, but this is only for the creatures and not for humans. Don't worry, though, you will still get a thrill from this ride. You will also be able to see a 30-foot-tall pumpkin replica of the Statute of Liberty and a "pumpkin possum posse" in the pumpkin menagerie with many other pumpkin animals.

Note: If you would like to try your hand at making a smaller, one-pumpkin version of a carousel, type in "pumpkin carousel" in Google's search engine and you'll find some really great photographs that you could mimic with the appropriate carving skills.

Exciting display at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze."
Exciting display at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze."
What a beautiful display this wheel is - a part of the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" event. which is held each year during the Halloween season.
What a beautiful display this wheel is - a part of the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" event. which is held each year during the Halloween season.

All 40 Nights for the Event Are Expected to Be Sold Out!

The "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" will continue this year for 40 electrifying nights, and visitors will be able to gaze in awe at over 7,000 hand-carved illuminated jack-o'-lanterns as they stroll through a historic, 18th-century riverside landscape.

In 2016, tens of thousands of visitors came to Sleepy Hollow and each night was completely sold out. This year is expected to be a repeat of last year, with even more people clamoring to get tickets.

This year will be complete with sound effects and synchronized lighting. There will also be an all-original soundtrack by recording artist Richard Christy, so don't miss the opportunity to be amazed during this Halloween season. The event is appropriate for all ages.

A pumpkin train is one of the larger displays at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" event.
A pumpkin train is one of the larger displays at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" event.

The "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" Tickets for 2017

  • Event location: Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 South Riverside Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10591
  • Adults, $20; Children 3-17, $16 (Fridays + Saturdays: $25, $20)
  • FREE for children under 3 and members of Historic Hudson Valley
  • Groups of 25 or more: email lorourke@hudsonvalley.org
  • Click here to buy tickets online and find out which times/dates are available.
  • Buy your tickets soon, as this will be a sold-out event.
  • Additional information regarding times:

    September 29: First entry at 7 p.m., last entry at 9:30 p.m.
    September 30: First entry at 7 p.m., last entry at 10 p.m.
    Octctober 1: First entry at 7 p.m., last entry at 9 p.m.

Accessibility

There are no stairs to negotiate through the installation, so the event is handicapped accessible. However, this is a walk-through event and there are some narrow and slightly sloped brick paths along uneven, unpaved, soft-surface terrain, so take those things into consideration before planning a trip. Handicapped parking is available for vehicles displaying the proper plate or placard.

Click here to access a map.

The pumpkin planetarium at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" in Sleepy Hollow is a popular end-of-tour sight at this spectacular walk-through event.
The pumpkin planetarium at the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" in Sleepy Hollow is a popular end-of-tour sight at this spectacular walk-through event.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

Washington Irving, when he wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, couldn't have imagined the effect his words would have on the residents of this small village where he lived for many years and is buried. The village was originally incorporated as North Tarrytown, but changed its name to Sleepy Hollow in 1996, many years after Irving wrote the famous short story about the area, which has been called Irving's version of "speculative fiction."

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the tale of a man named Ichabod Crane, a slight, but smart schoolteacher, and the menacing headless horseman. Irving, who also wrote Rip Van Winkle, has been referred to as "the American man of letters."

Ichabod Crane being pursued by the headless horseman.
Ichabod Crane being pursued by the headless horseman.
Michael Natiello, creative director for the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" and some of his personal carved creations.  Each year, he carves hundreds of pumpkins for the event.  This year, 7,000+ pumpkins and Funkins will be used to make the displays.
Michael Natiello, creative director for the "Great Jack-o'-Lantern Blaze" and some of his personal carved creations. Each year, he carves hundreds of pumpkins for the event. This year, 7,000+ pumpkins and Funkins will be used to make the displays.

Michael Natiello, Creative Director for the Event

Michael Natiello has been the creative director for the event since it started in 2005. Since that time, it has grown considerably. In its first year the event featured more than 2,500 jack-o’-lanterns, and this year’s display, which is expected to draw 120,000 people, includes over 7,000 real and foam pumpkins (Funkins).

But Natiello doesn't work alone. There are hundreds of Hudson Valley residents who have learned the art of carving from him. There is a stable of approximately 1,000 volunteers who help scoop out and light the pumpkins; and about 20 carvers, covering a variety of different backgrounds, working with him on site.

Having studied painting and illustration, Natiello graduated from Syracuse University in 1996, and his goal was to become a historical illustrator. Instead, he became a high school teacher in Oregon, then a gallery attendant at the Dia Art Foundation in Beacon, N.Y., a position which led him to take a full-time job at Van Cortlandt Manor, a National Historic Landmark.

A few years after he began working at the Van Cortland Manor, he was approached by the owner about possibly displaying jack-o'-lanterns at the site and because of that simple request, his aspirations to become a historial illustrator have vanished. Natiello, who credits Martha Stewart for much of his inspiration, appears to have followed through in a major way, carving and displaying pumpkins that are lighting their way into history and he plans to continue for many years to come.

Happy Halloween (Written by a Jack-o'-Lantern, of Course)!

A happy little fellow sat on my fence all night.

His smile was full and wide - a most amazing sight.

He said to me: "I'm yours for keeps, I hope you'll like me fine.

I've watched you now for weeks and weeks while growing on my vine.

Just put me in your window when the right time rolls around.

I promise that I'll glow for you and never make a sound.

I'll be your friend forever, we'll be happy as can be.

For I'm your jack-o'-lantern and you're just right for me".

Can't Visit This Event? Try Carving Fancy Pumpkins Yourself

You Can Learn to Carve Them and This Video Will Help

© 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

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