True, Westchester-original Halloweens are one of our county’s great pleasures, as a great number of the traditions most associated with fright night — and Christmas, for that matter — originated in the works of America’s first great writer, Washington Irving, specifically The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.
Serialized from 1819 to 1820, The Sketchbook introduced the world to now-staple characters like Rip Van Winkle, Diedrich Knickerbocker (who became the inspiration for the demonym for all New Yorkers and eventually a certain basketball franchise), and, of course, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
On April 3, the towns of Tarrytown, Irvington, and Sleepy Hollow announced an elaborate 18-month celebration that will honor Irving and his massive body of work with special events, academic conferences, and more than a few fun ways for Westchester residents to get in on the local legend.
Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray, County Executive George Latimer, and notably the head-challenged Hessian himself revealed the plans on the morning of April 3, along with a new commemorative poster and “Sleepy Hollow Country” map designed by local illustrator Tim Grajek, a new official website, and the host of planned events.
“Westchester County has been home to an extraordinary range of historic figures — with perhaps none more influential than Washington Irving himself,” Latimer says. “His tales established a sense of history and mythology for Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown and the entire Hudson Valley region that lives on to this day.”
Kicking off on May 18, the Sleepy Hollow Lit Festival will feature more than a hundred activities, author readings, and performances everywhere from the Old Dutch Church and Sleepy Hollow Cemetary to more modern venues like the Hudson Valley Writers Center and Tarrytown Music Hall.
After that, visitors can enjoy walking tours “The Original Knickerbocker: Washington Irving and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and Colonial Tour of the Old Dutch Church and Burying Ground hosted by the local Historic Society. (Tours run May through November.)
Summer events will be led by Everybody Reading The Legend, a countywide book club at the Tarrytown Warner Library and Historical Society in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, as well as the Old Dutch Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and Sunnyside, all facilitating discussions of Irving and his works.
New fall events this year will include the Sleepy Hollow International Film festival at Tarrytown Music Hall from October 10 through the 13th. Aside from the expectedly spooky genre films, the festival will include screenings of the 1949 Disney adaptation of The Legend, the 1999 Tim Burton live action feature, and plenty of special guests. Recurring events like The Blaze and Philpsburg Manor programming like The Unsilent Picture will enjoy expanded and enhanced show dates.
Ultimately, one year from now in April 2020, the Historical Society, Historic Hudson Valley, and Irving biographer Andrew Burstein will host an academic conference dedicated to the “legend”-ary author.
Further details and information of upcoming events can be found at www.headlesshorseman.org.