CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Every weekend in October, and some weeknights, thousands of people will swarm the Village of Croton to see the Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor. Last year, nearly 80,000 people came to the village to see about 4,000 pumpkins lit up in the autumn evening.
“We knew that it would be popular,” said Michael Natiello, creative director for Historic Hudson Valley, the organization which manages several historic properties in the area “We didn’t know it would captivate.”
The Blaze started in 2005 with about 2,500 pumpkins, and “funkins,” artificial pumpkins, and has grown to over 4,000 pumpkins. The Blaze gradually adds more pumpkins at the event goes on. Their goal is to carve 1,500 pumpkins per week. Over the course of the event, about 1,000 different volunteers, from girl scouts to cheer squads, come in to scoop the guts out of real pumpkins, for the creative team to carve new creations into them.
Irene destroyed much of the Hudson Valley’s pumpkin crops, since they are ground growing vegetables and are highly susceptible to flood damage, but the Blaze was able to obtain another source of pumpkins.
“We had to scramble a bit to locate additional sources for pumpkins,” said Rob Schweitzer, spokesman for Historic Hudson Valley.
Crops were badly damaged at their normal supplier, Wallkill View Farm in New Paltz, which lost nearly 90 percent of this year’s pumpkin crop.
Although full-size pumpkins, typically associated with carving, are not available for purchase at the Blaze, patrons can buy “funkins” carved by the Van Cortlandt Manor creative team.The team has pumpkins carved as everything from sheep skeletons to dinosaurs, and arranged them in spider web shapes, as the heads of witches and enormous stalks of corn.
All ages attend the Blaze, though certainly children are high on the list of attendees. Other autumn treats are available at the Blaze, such as popcorn and apple cider, and coffee and tea.
Patrons are required to buy their tickets in advance, and tickets are sold for specific time slots each night. The Blaze starts on October 1, and runs through November 6 this year. For more information see Historic Hudson Valley’s website.