Croton’s Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze: What You Need to Know

Literally and figuratively, this yearly squash spectacle just keeps growing and growing.

Photo courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

The popular pumpkin spectacular is back in Westchester County this fall, with more glowing gourds and fun than ever before.

If you ask anyone from the Hudson Valley to Manhattan, the annual Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson is one of the largest must-hit cultural events of the season. Locals, celebrities, and visitors alike come out year after year to see the massive light sculptures constructed from thousands of carved pumpkins.

Here’s everything you need to know about the spectacle, including its history, how it works, where to get tickets, and — of course — some truly epic shots to get you primed for your next visit.

What Is the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze?

The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze — often just called “the Pumpkin Blaze” or “the Blaze” by locals in the know — is an annual event held at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson by Historic Hudson Valley, a local not-for-profit historical preservation society, which also holds several other Halloween events in Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow, and throughout Westchester County.

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Originally started as a local celebration in 2005, the pumpkin blaze has swelled in popularity over the years, topping more than 160,000 visitors in recent years, and adding a Long Island iteration at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration Site in 2020.

Each Blaze features intricate light sculptures and landscapes built entirely from lit, ornately carved pumpkins. Fan favorites like the Headless Horseman, Statue of Liberty, pumpkin planetarium, and the Pumpkin Bridge — née the “Pumpkin Zee Bridge” — are reconstructed yearly from gourds (as well as longer-lasting artificial “Funkins”), along with a rotating assortment of new designs. Recent additions of a New York cityscape and jellyfish walk-through, as well as upgraded galleries of pumpkin-y masterpieces and dinosaur skeletons have all proved popular.

PZBThe Pumpkin Bridge used to be called the "Pumpkin Zee." Is nothing sacred?
The Pumpkin Bridge used to be called the “Pumpkin Zee.” Is nothing sacred? Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

The walking tour, which typically lasts about 45 minutes or so, depending on your pace and where you stop for photos, also includes a working pumpkin carousel designed by William Dentzel, a modern-day descendant of one of this country’s very first carousel makers. (Try overlaying it with Richard Christy’s fabulous two-volume “Blaze: The Soundtrack” and thank us later.)

“The pumpkin sort of tells you what it wants to be,” says Historic Hudson Valley VP of Communications and Commerce Rob Schweitzer. “It may not be the perfect pumpkin for this idea I have in mind, but the pumpkin might have another idea and you end up carving that.”

Related: Where to Go Pumpkin Picking in Westchester County

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All that carving starts early with plenty of local volunteers. “We really start in earnest the end of August with carving Funkins,” Schweitzer says, “then we’re carving real pumpkins throughout the run of the event, because we’re replacing about a thousand pumpkins every week.” That’s a lot of seeds and guts. (Don’t worry, though: Gourdish entrails, carved scraps, and “retired” pumpkins are all composted for the gardens at Historic Hudson Valley sites throughout the region.)

Guests can also select from an incredibly diverse assortment of pumpkin and pumpkin-themed and Halloween-y items in the Blaze gift shop. Delicious food like popcorn and fresh cider donuts pair nicely with beer, wine, and soft drinks, available at the entrance/exit.

the blaze
Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

Get Tickets — How It Works

Tickets are available online for scheduled dates and times, staggered every 30 minutes or so to ensure a steady flow of guests in and out. Tickets start at $24 depending on admission time and date. (Weekends and holidays tend to be a bit pricier.) Senior tickets are available, and Historic Hudson Valley members and children under two always get in free.

If you purchase a FLEX-Ticket, you will be able to attend the Blaze any night during any time slot, for one night only. Present your ticket at the register to receive your complimentary food or drink item.

The Blaze is rain-or-shine, so definitely prepare to get muddy if the former holds true; a good set of mud boots may be advisable.

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This year, the Blaze runs from September 15 through November 19.

What’s New at the Pumpkin Blaze This Year

This year the Blaze will be introducing a twirling pumpkin Ferris wheel and the option to take the gourd-eous circus sideshow.

Let’s See the Blaze Photos!

Thought you’d never ask.

carousel
No no, that’s not weirdly terrifying in the slightest. Nope. Uh-uh. | Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley
banksy
Banksy has been added to the Museum of Modern (Pumpkin) Art. Courtesy Historic Hudson Valley
the blaze
“My lord.” | Photo by Dave Zucker
rawr
Nature finds a way. | Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
Photo by Dave Zucker
pumpkin scarecrows
Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
Photo by Dave Zucker
entry
Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
The musically animated pumpkin planetarium | Photo by Dave Zucker
classic pumpkins
Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
Photo by Dave Zucker
sunflowers
Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
Photo by Dave Zucker
dancing pumpkin
“Cuz it’s THRILLERRRRR thriller niiight….” | Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
The fabled unipegacorn | Photo by Dave Zucker
pumpkin
“Well. I. NEVER.” | Photo by Dave Zucker
pumpkin windmill
You can really see the Dutch influences. | Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
Photo by Dave Zucker
pumpkin skeleton
Photo by Dave Zucker
the blaze
Photo by Kate Chervin
pumpkins
Photo by Kate Chervin
the blaze
Photo by Kate Chervin
pumpkins galore
Photo by Kate Chervin
pumpkins at night
Photo by Kate Chervin
glowing house
Photo by Kate Chervin
sea monster
Photo by Kate Chervin
spiderweb
Photo by Kate Chervin

Will I Get to See Celebrities at the Blaze?

Probably! (Possibly.)

 

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