A dozen Jack O'Lanterns is cool. Two dozen carved up pumpkins is impressive. 50 or more? Wow, good for you. Wait, 100?! Say, don't you live in a one-bedroom apartment? OH GOD OVER 100 JACK O'LANTERNS?! Isn't anyone gonna call the cops? And damn, once you get into the thousands, you really have to start asking yourself, 'do I have a problem?'
Blaze does not have a problem. Blaze is the solution. The annual Halloween Jack O'Lantern festival up in Westchester has everything under control. Oh, you think these are too many Jack O'Lanterns? Yeah, maybe for the amateurs living their quiet cuck lives down in Sleepytown, NYC, where it's lights out at 11. Up in CroTON-on-HudSON, 10,000 Jack O'Lanterns is just what they call a regular weeknight. Light 'em up, Jack-O, it's decorative gourd season, and Blaze is leaving everything on the field, burned and rotting and Instagrammed all to hell.
Now in its 13th year, Blaze is the big crowd-pleasing event for Van Cortlandt Manor, a historic estate where visitors can "experience the domestic life of a patriot family living in the years just after the American Revolution." And, every autumn around Halloween, visitors can also experience a truly extraordinary Halloween display, comprised of thousands and thousands of meticulously carved and arranged Jack O'Lanterns.
It's quite a spectacle, and this year Blaze will stay lit through much of November, which is a good thing if you missed it, because tickets are sold out through the end of this month. (It's a little under an hour away from NYC via Metro North train to the Croton-Harmon stop.) Enjoy Tod Seelie's photos of this year's Blaze above. Below, Rob Schweitzer, of the Historic Hudson Valley education organization, answers some of our questions about the production.
Okay be honest, how many pumpkins does it take to produce this? Believe it or not, we go through more than 200,000 pounds of pumpkin for the full run.
How much does it cost, approximately, for all the pumpkins? A lot! [Editor's note: Don't worry, Rob has it under control.]
Has the unseasonably warm weather been a challenge? Visitors love it. The staff loves it. I love it. But the pumpkins do not love it. Heat is not a good thing for pumpkins, so they are not lasting as long as they usually do. We have a bit of a military operation in place where we scoop on certain days, carve on others, and we are continuously replenishing throughout the event run. Because of the weather, the pumpkins aren’t lasting as long and we’ve needed to scramble with our supplier to make sure we have enough to get us through. But, we are good through the end of the run!
Whose idea was it to carve the guys in Phish onto the pumpkins? Why? And how hard is that? Good eye! Phish collaborator Steve Pollak [a.k.a. The Dude of Life] is a friend of Historic Hudson Valley, my organization that creates the Blaze, and we’re trying to get the full band to visit! Carving a portrait like that using the scraping method is very difficult because you can’t always capture the subtlety in a face like you can in more traditional mediums. I think our creative director did a fantastic job on those though.
What's the biggest challenge involved in producing Blaze? This is a huge undertaking for Historic Hudson Valley. We spend all year planning it, along with all the other work we do (we’re a non-profit educational organization). In terms of execution, dealing with the weather is a huge challenge as we are entirely outdoors.
What's the most memorable reaction a visitor has had? We have folks who visit from all 50 states and other countries. When you have somebody who flew in from Ireland to see this, and then tell you the experience was more than worth it, as I did a few weeks ago, I find that very memorable.
What's the most unique aspect of this year's Blaze? Definitely the 20-foot round fully functioning pumpkin carousel. Unfortunately it’s just for pumpkin riders, not humans, but it’s an incredible piece…something we’ve wanted to execute for several years. We finally pulled it off!