Halloween is upon us, and hardly a better place to capture the spirit of the season, especially when it comes to pumpkins. New Paltz is home to The Night of 100 Pumpkins, but few of us even know the legend of the mysterious jack-o’-lantern. So, let’s take some time to delve into the origin of taking large, orange, scored fruits — namely pumpkins — and transforming them into ghastly, ghoulish creations.
The practice of decorating and illum-inating pumpkins originates from an Irish folktale about a man named “Stingy Jack.” The legend of “Stingy Jack” commences when miserly Jack invites the devil to have a drink with him. As his name “stingy” implies, Jack refuses to pay for his drink and convinces the devil to transform himself into a coin that the Irishman can use to purchase their drinks. And…once the devil obliges, Jack speedily deposits the money into his own pocket. Eventually, Jack sets the devil free under the condition that he will not concern himself with Jack for one year. In addition, the devil agrees that he will not claim Jack’s soul if, perchance, Jack were to die.
As legend has it, the next year Jack, once again, tricks the devil into climbing a tree to pick fruit. While precariously perched in the branches of the tree, Jack carves the sign of the cross into the bark of said tree to prevent the devil from descending until the devil vows not to bother Jack for an additional decade. The devil agrees, but Jack’s problems only intensify. Upon Jack’s eventual passing, he not only isn’t allowed into heaven (as he is considered quite unsavory), but also the devil, being quite upset by Jack’s tricks, keeps his word and does not claim his soul. Therefore, Jack cannot go into the fiery depths, of which the devil is landlord, nor enter the pearly gates. Instead, Jack is sent off into dark obscurity carrying only a carved out turnip with a burning coal inside to light his way. It is said that Jack has been roaming the earth ever since.
So, there you have it. Because of the Irish reference to “Jack of the Lantern,” American native pumpkins — not turnips — peer from porches, sidewalks, and house steps every October.
To enter your jack-o’-lantern in The Night of 100 Pumpkins, bring your ghoulishly carved (or painted) pumpkin to The Bakery located at 13A North Front Street in New Paltz on Wednesday, October 30 with the artist’s name and age written on the back of the entry. Then, return between 6-10pm on Halloween night, October 31, to witness the pumpkins aglow. Eat, drink, and be merry while finding out the winners in each category.
For more information, call 845-255-8840 or go online to ilovethebakery.com
What’s Cookin’ at The Bakery?
The Bakery owner David Santner explains that for the past 23 years, The Night of 100 Pumpkins has been an “eagerly awaited” event and tradition where hundreds upon hundreds of carved or painted pumpkins have been brought forth to The Bakery for the annual jack-o’-lantern community competition.
Santner says, “The event brings out the ghoulish artist in hundreds of big and little kids who each decorate a jack-o’-lantern to win prizes donated by local businesses and awarded in many categories.” He added that each pumpkin artist also receives a free pumpkin cookie with their entry.
Numerously awarded by reader polls in Hudson Valley Magazine for being the “Best Bakery” with “The Best Bagel” and “The Best Cup of Coffee” in the Hudson Valley, The Bakery has become a town gathering spot since opening in 1981 with “Meet me at The Bakery” frequently heard throughout town. As Santner puts it, “A community needs a heart, and at the heart of every vital community is a place—a place where people can gather to enjoy the pleasure of good company and lively conversation—and we were determined to provide such a place…determined to feed and nurture a community.”
Now that we’ve shed some light, so to speak, on tradition, let’s segue way into one of the most famous & multi-faceted Halloween happenings in New Paltz:
New Paltz Halloween Parade
Thursday, October 31 is the decades-old Halloween Parade, where a costume-clad posse of frolickers gathers at 6pm at the New Paltz Middle School parking lot on Main Street and Manheim Boulevard. From there, the gruesome group spookily strides down Main Street and heads towards Hasbrouck Park’s playground, which is craftily converted into a uniquely unnerving theme each year. Get chills at the park and thrills at the nearby New Paltz Fire House, where volunteers will be handing out treats. Then, it’s on to The Bakery to marvel at their Night of 100 Pumpkins, complete with free pumpkin bread, cocoa, hot cider and an amazingly creative gallery of jack-o’-lanterns all vying for a prize.
Historically Haunting Scavenger Hunt
Historic Huguenot provides a thrilling, but not too chilling, child-themed scavenger hunt, which takes place on the grounds of Historic Huguenot Street on October 26 from 2-4pm. Registration for the event is held prior to the "Hunt" at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center, 81 Huguenot Street, where sleuths will receive their first clue. Also, on this date will be a paper craft Halloween activity table event at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center for young children from pre-school and up—including special prizes for those who are costume-clad. Pre-registration is not required for this event. At night, adults can also check out Haunted Huguenot Street, where they can listen to stories of mayhem and hauntings while touring homes, grounds, and cemeteries on this historic street. For more information, call Rebecca Mackey at 845-255-1660, ext. 105; email Rebecca@Huguenotstreet.org; or visit huguenotstreet.org
Teen Scene Haunted House
The New Paltz Youth Program, aka The Teen Scene, annually hosts a haunted house for ghosts and goblins who dare for a scare. The Haunted House is located at 220 Main Street in New Paltz and takes place on Halloween night from 6-11pm. For more information on admission fees for adults and children under age 18 and to discover if an additional night has been added, call 845-255-5140 or go online for updates at NPYP.org. Proceeds of this event are used to improve services for the area’s youth.
More Hauntings in the Hudson Valley:
September 29-October 29
86 Creamery Road, Stanfordville;
October 5-6, 11-13, 18-20, 25-27 and November 1-2
381 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow;
October 5-6, 11-14, 17-20, 24-31 and November 1-3, 8-11
The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze
Van Cortlandt Manor, 525 South Riverside Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson;
Hudson Valley Rail Trail’s MoonWalk
October 18, 19, 25, 26
Legends by Candlelight Ghost Tours
6-9pm; 87 Clermont Avenue, Germantown;
October 18-20 & October 25-27
Frost Valley YMCA
Halloween Weekends 1& 2
2000 Frost Valley Road, Claryville;
Ghost Walk of Main Street & the Cemetery
7pm; Hurley; 845-331-8673;
Halloween Haunts and Happenings
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz;
Zombie Run UlsterCorps Service Sprint
434 Williams Lake Road, Rosendale;
Halloween Fun Festival
209 Perkinsville Road, Highland;
Halloween Ghost Train Night
7pm; The Hyde Park Station, 34 River Road, Hyde Park;
Woodstock Halloween Parade