Madeline’s school is already closed Monday and Tuesday, Nick’s so far is closed on Monday. Train service suspended. State offices closed.
We are all bracing for the worst, and I’m hoping, after our experience last year with the wrath of Hurricane Irene, that Sandy moves on and we can easily pick up the pieces. In the meantime, it’s a terrible waiting game.
Last year, with Hurricane Irene, our town, and particularly the downtown area, was hit hard. Stores sustained hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, homes were declared unlivable, and the Main Street became a waterway deep enough for row boats and canoes.
This weekend, we watched those same stores tape their windows and pile the sand bags outside their doors. My heart breaks for them as they prepare for what’s coming. But man, does my heart swell when I see the rally cry for help and strangers pitch in, filling sand bags, shoring up breakables, and doing everything they can to help each other.
Ok, onto happy stuff.
While I don’t have weekend pictures for you, I *do* have pictures from our Friday night festivities. We met up with friends to go visit The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze in Hudson Valley, New York. My friend, Cathy, e-mailed me the link to the Blaze several months back. None of us had ever been. I looked at the site super quickly, saw the words Sleepy Hollow and quickly said “we’re in!” I mean, really, do we need to know more than that?
Flash forward to last week. I’m catching up on facebook and noticed that an old classmate from grade school links to this fun event in NY. He’s a bit of a pro when it comes to pumpkin carving, and some of his pumpkins were going to be on display. So I e-mail Cathy and include the link and tell her to clear her calendar.
Well. It turns out it was the same place we already had tickets for.
Um, yeah. So clearly I didn’t look close enough at the web site the first time.
I loaded the kids up and we hit the road right after work on Friday. We really lucked out with traffic, and only hit a little bit as we were going through the uber-cute little towns of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.
Easy to find, easy and free parking, we were entering the Blaze grounds up in no time flat. There are over 5,000 hand carved pumpkins on the grounds of the Van Cortlandt Manor. As you walk through the estate along a self-guided pathway, there are tons of exhibits that catch your eye. Each display was a different theme … a hive with honey bees, a sunflower patch, London’s Big Ben, zoo animals, a smattering of dinosaurs… all depicted with carved pumpkins. Every year, they add more scenes and more pumpkins.
All the pumpkins are carved by Manor staff, volunteers, artists, and various organizations, and the carving begins in earnest in June! It takes the volunteers over three hours every night to light all the pumpkins during the Blaze. Everything you see in these pictures, and at the Blaze, is all pumpkin. There are no other props or materials used.
It took about an hour to go through all the displays and scenes, which is just about perfect. Long enough to feel like it was worth the drive, and the two-month advance ticket purchase, and short enough that the kids weren’t whining that there was too much walking.
There are staff members throughout the trail, complete with glow sticks, to answer any questions. Near the end there is the obligatory gift shop, which we managed to get through with only a $0.65 postcard purchase, and at the end, there is a food tent with a few more novelty Halloween items for sale.
Avoid the food. Ridiculously overpriced.
It was our first time visiting the Blaze, and our first time in the Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown area (the actual town where the Blaze is held is Croton-on-Hudson). I would love to go back and do some of the historial tours with the kids, and now that they have been introduced to the Sleepy Hollow area and I briefly told them about Ichabod Crane, it might be time to find a book or movie for them as fun background. It was a great experience for the kids, and a perfect way to usher in the upcoming Halloween week.
Our one negative note is that the only restrooms available were at the beginning/end (in the form of porta johns). Because the trail is a bit long, and really populated by lots of little kids, a midway point for some restrooms would be appreciated.
The Blaze is actually on through November 11th, so if you’re in the area, or even a little bit outside it, do check it out. Or add it to your list for next year.
Our favorite was the covered bridge, so beautiful.
*They did just decide to close through the 31st because of the coming storm, but they have added some extra times and an extra date to compensate.