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Old Westbury Gardens 'Jack O'Lanterns'


The Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns at Old Westbury Gardens lights up the night in October. The exhibit features more than 5,000 hand-carved jack o'lanterns created by professional artists and sculptors on display throughout a trail spanning a third of a mile. (Credit: Raychel Brightman)

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown -- times 5,000.

That's how many hand-carved jack-o'-lanterns are expected to "rise" in the night along a trail at this preserved Gold Coast estate.

Unlike the scary thrills jumping out at area Halloween haunted houses, this display emphasizes real fancy gourds over fake gore and artistry over animatronics.

Mike Pollock, the show's executive producer, assures parents and children that although his pumpkins may look spooky, "nothing is going to jump out at them."


This is no carving-knife-and-kitchen-sideboard affair. These pumpkin heads are being created as a multihour team effort by dozens of artists, including sculptors and pen-and-ink experts from the New York metro area. They're using thousands of pumpkins from an upstate farm to fashion "intricate, in-depth carvings," says Thomas Olton, the show's creative director.

In most cases, a carver is using special equipment to realize an artist's design. The great carve-a-thon began this past Tuesday and continues each weekend as new gourds are hollowed out and cut to replace spoiled ones. About 1,000 jack-o'-lanterns of the 5,000 are being made from fresh-picked pumpkins, the rest with a foam material, Pollock says.

One pumpkin a week will be carved by Andy Gertler of Sea Cliff, better known as one of the globe-trotting sand-castle artists on the Travel Channel's "Sand Masters." He's creating "some scary faces," which will be "a mixture of my crazy brain and the crazy face of the pumpkin."



Finished pieces will be illuminated with candles or colored lights and displayed on a winding, about three-quarter-mile trail through the gardens.

Part of the fun for spectators will be spotting the celebrity- caricature pumpkins lurking among the more traditional witch and goblin faces. Look sharp for pop stars Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, astronauts Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong and the two major- party presidential candidates, among the other familiar figures. Olton says he's also cooking up carvings featuring dinosaurs such as a T. rex bathed in green light.


Old Westbury Gardens spokesman Vincent Kish says that although this is a rare chance to visit the gardens at night, the Westbury House mansion isn't part of the show. But the spectacle of 5,000 pumpkins laid out on a trail will dazzle from a distance. The artistry, he says, is "impressive" up close as well.

Says Olton: "We're going to show them [spectators] things they didn't know they could do with jack-o'-lanterns."

The Rise of the Jack O'Lanterns

WHEN | WHERE 6-9:30 p.m. Fridays-Sundays (trail closes at 11) through Oct. 28, Old Westbury Gardens. Tickets are sold for timed entry -- advance purchase required. Rain or shine.

INFO 914-502-2339,

ADMISSION $16 ($14 ages 5-17)

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