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Thousands of Pumpkins Light up Croton Blaze

This year's show introduces new lighting concepts to enhance the illusion of movement at certain installations.

At The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze, more than 4,000 jack o' lanterns, hand scooped by volunteers and carved by professionals, will be lit-up and displayed in a massive ensemble of Halloween-inspired spooky scenes and structures. Eerie music and sounds add to the fun.

In its seventh year, the 2011 holding of this event begins on Oct. 1 at the historic Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson and continues on selected dates until Nov. 6. 

"The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze has grown from humble beginnings to become the largest Halloween-inspired event in the tri-state area," said Rob Schweitzer, spokesperson for Historic Hudson Valley. "Since the event is spread out over six weeks, we are continuously carving. Our small staff is starting to turn a bit orange." 

Although scary at times, this largely strolling event is recommended for children of all ages. Hand holding is suggested for small kids as traversing the grounds often requires walking among large crowds through wooded paths and dark areas. 

Twenty-one, evening-only performances have been scheduled for 2011. Last season'sBlaze attracted 80,000 attendees to 20 performances.

This year, new lighting designs and concepts developed by Jay Woods will add an illusion of movement to certain installations.

"Each year we try to come up with new ways to impress visitors," Schweitzer mentioned. "Our displays are a mix of intricate single pumpkins and large constructions of multiple carvings, like huge snakes and the dinosaurs."  

One of this year's new exhibits is a flock of ghost-like sheep. Among the popular returning attractions are an undersea aquarium, Pirates’ Cove, life-sized dinosaurs in Jurassic Park including T-Rex, “Pumpkinhenge,” (a takeoff on Stonehenge), a giant “cornfield,” a 50-foot-high spider web, a graveyard with pumpkin headstones, and arrangements that reflect mythological Greece. "King Kong, a new attraction at the Blaze, will be perched high on a building," Schweitzer noted. 

Creative Director Michael Natiello said a small team of Historic Hudson Valley staff members and local artists did the carving and were assisted by approximately 1,000 volunteers who handled scooping and lighting of the pumpkins.  

The dates for the Blaze are Oct. 1-2, 7-10, 14-16, 20-23, 27-31, and Nov. 4-6. 

Admission to all performances is by advance purchase of tickets only. The nights of Saturday, Oct. 15 and 22 have been sold out. "As past visitors know," Schweitzer said, "we aren't kidding when we say this sells out."

The first reservation time each night is 7 p.m. on Oct. 1-2 and 7-10, and 6:30 p.m. for all other dates. Attendees should take into consideration waiting time to park their cars.

A souvenir shop will carry Blaze labeled merchandise such as hats, notepads, games, T-shirts, magnets, caps, mugs, and jewelry.

Café Blazé, operated by Geordane’s of Irvington, will offer snacks including soup, vegetable chili, muffins, pumpkin cookies and cider.

The Great Jack O’ Lantern Blaze is conducted by Historic Hudson Valley, a not-for-profit organization formed to preserve the history, culture, character and traditions of the Hudson Valley region. It is governed by a volunteer board of trustees and supported by grants or contributions from foundations, corporations, private individuals and government agencies and revenue received from visitors. It was created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1951. 

Van Cortlandt Manor is at 525 South Riverside Ave., just off Route 9 in Croton-on-Hudson.

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