By Jenna DeBobes
‘Tis the season for hayrides, pumpkin picking, candy apples and corn mazes. Here on Long Island, the fall season also means another tradition: Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns at Old Westbury Gardens.
Making its fifth annual appearance, the unique fall event produced by Michael Pollock, has become one of the newest Halloween traditions on the island. The Rise shows off more than 5,000 hand-carved pumpkins crafted by professional artists and sculptors which are displayed in creative ways to decorate the 1/3 mile scenic trail for visitors of all ages to see.
While some may carve pumpkins for fun to decorate the outside of their home, these pumpkins are no holiday decoration, they’re art. For Bruno Krauchthaler this was his first year as an artist at the event. Krauchthaler is a talented sculptor who carves detailed, realistic faces into the jack o’lanterns-a feat that can take up to five hours. When it comes to preparing to sculpt one pumpkin it takes three hours to do illustrations and two hours for the carving. In order to keep all the pumpkins looking beautiful each week they replace the deceased jack o’lanterns with fresh ones, which adds up to quite a lot of carving.
In past years artists have carved themes like Disney and comic book characters, sport team logos, pop-culture and world leader portraits as well as the traditional skeletons and goblins. This year The Rise will take visitors through a safari where they will see animals larger than life carved from dozens of pumpkins, an auto show with classic cars and some popular TV and movie stars carved into giant pumpkins weighing more than 100 pounds.
Although The Rise is a Halloween attraction, it’s assured that the event is not spooky. The Rise is to be considered as more of an art show, making it a fun family affair. Jillian Bernstein of Bethpage gave it glowing reviews, saying her family has been coming to the event every year, “It’s a fun tradition and we enjoy seeing all the different carved pumpkins.” Her four-year-old niece Charlotte, who was dressed up in blinking light cat ears, was excited to say the Taylor Swift carved pumpkin was her favorite. For other families such as the Kleins, it was their first time to the event adding, “We will definitely be coming back next year.”
The trail, which takes about 45 minutes to an hour to walk through, is best viewed in the evening so visitors can see the spectacular pumpkins glowing bright. Sessions are held Friday to Sunday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and the trail stays open until 11 p.m. Tickets for the event can be bought online at www.therise.org.