The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze. Photo: Staff
It’s almost Halloween, which means Jack O’Lanterns are keeping watch from porches and doorsteps around the country. Their festive faces glow in the night, and may even keep evil spirits at bay. This centuries-old tradition of carving faces into pumpkins originated with the Irish folktale of “Stingy Jack.” According to the legend, Stingy Jack’s ghost roams the earth with a burning coal in a carved-out turnip to light his way. Centuries ago In Ireland and Scotland, people carved scary faces into potatoes and and turnips, then placed them in their windows to keep Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits from haunting their homes. Believers in England used beets for their talisman carvings. When settlers arrived in America, they found that pumpkins, which grow plentifully this time of year, were ideal for carving. Thus, the big orange gourd became the fruit of choice for an eerie tradition to live on.
This season is all about getting a little spooked and having a lot of fun. These Jack O’Lantern displays, experiences, and events around New York State are sure to excite the whole family.
Every year, families from all across the tri-state area journey to Croton-On-Hudson to experience The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. This event, held annually at Van Cortlandt Manor features 7,000 illuminated Jack O’Lanterns, all hand-carved by a team of on-site artisans. The Blaze is an extraordinary display -- you’ll find a windmill of Jack O’Lanterns, the “Pumpkin Zee Bridge,” and a Jack O’Lantern Statue of Liberty. With light shows and original music, this is more than an event, rather a completely immersive, spooky, and unforgettable experience for the whole family. Dates for 2018 are October 4 - 31, November 1 - 4, 7 - 11, 15 - 17, 23 - 24. This event sells out, so buying tickets in advance is not just highly recommended, but essential! See New York Makers October 2017: New York ‘Spirited” State of Mind Editor’s Note for Amanda DiRobella’s take on this magical experience. (She still raves!)
Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 S Riverside, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
RISE is Long Island’s most iconic Halloween experience, seven years running. This year at the RISE, you’ll find talking characters made of Jack O’Lanterns, in addition to gigantic carved pumpkins weighing in at over 100 pounds, and life-sized works of art assembled from multiple Jack O’Lanterns, including a skeletal “biker gang”, live carving demonstrations and a Jack O’Lantern Cafe. This event boasts over 5,000 hand-carved Jack O’Lanterns. You can visit RISE of the Jack O’Lanterns October 25 - 29. Slots are limited, so buy your tickets now! If you are willing to give your email address, you can get a promo code that can save up to 50%.
Old Westbury Gardens, 1 Old Westbury Road, Old Westbury, NY
Jack O’Lanterns make for breathtaking, other-worldly visual arrangements, but can they sail? The answer is yes! You can bring your own carved pumpkin to Belmont Lake State Park on Long Island On Saturday, October 27th and watch your very own Jack O’Lantern sail around the lake at dusk. Be sure to arrive early, only the first 50 entered pumpkins get to take a dip. There are also activities for children before the sail, including crafts, games, photos and trick-or-treat stations. The event is from 3 pm - 6 pm; 6:15 pm, Pumpkin Sail begins.
625 Belmont Ave, West Babylon, NY
Photo: Filip Wolack
You could even set your Jack O’Lanterns to sail two nights in a row, if you make it to the Halloween Pumpkin Flotilla in Central Park in Manhattan on Sunday, October 28, from 4 pm - 7 pm. Carve an eight-pound or medium-sized pumpkin at home, and bring it to Central Park for a float across the Harlem Meer. (See website for more specifics relating to pumpkins to be entered in the Flotilla.) Between 4 pm and 5:45 pm, in addition to pumpkin drop off, there will be Halloween crafts, spooky stories, and pumpkin carving with professional carver Hugh McMahon, one of the first in the US to make pumpkin carving and melon carving a profession. He has over 40 years of carving experience and has carved for New York City institutions like the Whitney Museum and The Plaza Hotel. From 6 pm - 6:30 pm is the Halloween Costume Parade. The Pumpkin Flotilla launches just before the twilight launch at 6:30 pm. The event is free and open to all ages.
Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (inside the Park at 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues), Manhattan, NY