Upstate New York

Croton-on-Hudson, New York: Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze

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I’m spending my last week in America on a road trip around New England and Upstate New York with my boyfriend, which is pretty neat since these are all parts of America I haven’t visited before.  On the plus side, the leaves are gorgeous this time of year, and there’s lots of neat Halloween events, but the downside is that winter appears to “officially” start in mid-October here, at least as far as small museums are concerned, with the result that many places I’ve been dying to see are already closed for the year, like Grant Cottage, the Pierce Homestead, Calvin Coolidge Homesite, and most crushingly, Almanzo Wilder‘s boyhood home in Malone (I’ve wanted to visit it FOREVER, and was majorly disappointed when I realised I couldn’t).  One event I was able to attend, however, was the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson, near Sleepy Hollow.  I’m not sure that I’ll do anyone much good by posting about it, as I believe it’s already sold out for this year, but maybe you’ll enjoy some of my pictures (though, as usual, they are a bit crap), and can use the post for future reference!

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The Blaze was promoted as one of the premier attractions in the Hudson Valley, with thousands of illuminated jack o’lanterns on display.  I’ve been to my fair share of haunted houses, so even with timed entry, I expected a bit of a queue, but the line was stretched from the parking lot to (as I would later realise) the entrance gate across the street, which was pretty insane.  We finally gained entrance about half an hour after arriving, which would have been fine, if we weren’t packed in the actual attraction with hundreds of other people, leading to yet more tedious queueing.  Personally, I’m not that bothered about waiting to get in somewhere, but I get super annoyed if I have to wait once I’m inside, so I was in an irritable mood the entire time.

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That said, the pumpkins were damn cool.  I don’t think they were all real pumpkins, as there’s no way they would have held up for the six weeks the event runs for, but I don’t see how that really matters.  They covered the lawns and the exterior of what I believe was Van Cortlandt Manor, and the front of the house was lit up as well.  After walking under the pumpkin arch at the start, we progressed up a lawn with pumpkin snakes and Venus Flytraps, with a garden of “sunflowers” and (eek!) “butterflies” opposite.

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The manor house was garnished with an array of classic Jack O’Lantern faces, segueing into a gourd graveyard, and the scariest part, Clown O’Lanterns!  There were even working Jack O”Lantern-in-the-Boxes, with a gurning face popping up at irregular intervals.

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There were pumpkin spiders, a massive spiderweb, witches, the full range of Hollywood monsters, and even Native Americans.  The collection of large objects was completed by a clock with working pumpendulum, a tower, and a tunnel of love, and the final garden was turned into a veritable bestiary of zoo animals, fish,  and dinosaurs.  Naturally, there was the requisite gift shop, and stall selling apple cider, doughnuts, and caramel apples, but again, the lines were super long.  Finally, the experience concluded with a trip through the “museum of pumpkin art” which mostly featured headless horseman themed works, in keeping with the proximity to Sleepy Hollow.

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Even though I loved the pumpkins, the whole set-up of the place was incredibly irritating.  I get that it’s a popular event, and they want to let in as many people as possible, but they need to scale their ticket sales way back, as being slowly shuffled along a path for ten times as long as necessary as it actually takes to look at the displays is not my idea of a good time.  In addition, the layout was poor, as the trail went from narrow, to wide, to narrow again, creating a huge bottleneck next to the house, where we were crammed in a claustrophobic crowd, not moving at all for a good half an hour.  I was so annoyed, and I wasn’t the only one, judging from the grumbling going on around me.  Personally, I would introduce cattle prods to take care of those people who find it necessary to block paths for twenty minutes whilst they take photos involving every possible combination of people in their group, but I suppose that wouldn’t be allowed with modern health and safety regulations, so they need to either make the paths bigger, or let in fewer people.  For $20 per ticket, I expected a much better experience.  The Jack O’Lanterns get 4.5/5, but overall experience was only 2.5/5.  At any rate, you get to look at the rest of the photos without suffering through the crowds.  Lucky you!

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