Monday, November 4, 2013
To make up for the loss of Halloween due to Sandy last year, the day seemed to run the entire month for my family. It was a month filled with spooky times and laughter and the creeps. It had roller coasters and candy and baked apples and parades and ghosts. There were road trips and headless horsemen and pumpkin funnel cakes. I tried to jam as much of the spirit of the holiday into the month of October as possible. And we are exhausted but quite happy.
The fun began at Knoebel's, a place of happiness that I have praised long before this. Halloween is different, however, and this was our first visit during the fall. The park is only open on weekends in October and the grounds are decorated appropriately for the season. Witches line the walkways and fly high above the kiddie rides. Each ride is adorned with a different scary theme and some boring attractions take on a whole new atmosphere in the dark. One such ride, the Antique Cars, is remarkably transformed into a wildly scary ride filled with costumed ghouls popping out at every turn. The roller coasters speed through the dark night with strobe lights and shrieks. The concession stands trade corn dogs for baked apples and pumpkin spices make it into every sweet treat on the menu. For us it was a great beginning to Halloween and a tremendous family outing. Even the road leading to the park gave up a little autumnal smiles passing by the Red Deer Farm and filling our cooler with jerky and summer sausage and bologna. The kids marveled at the racks of the stags strutting out in the pasture and happily gobbled down the snack sticks.
I could not pretend to try to top the Knoebel's adventure. The next trip was a more relaxing affair held atop the Palisades in Fort Lee. There were campfire stories told by Revolutionary War-clad re-enactors and a hand-picked team of cannon brigade. Cannon fire echoed eeriely down the Hudson as our girls, along with a few Girl Scout friends, manned the antique firearm. Apple cider donuts and warm cider kept our grumbling bellies happy until we could retreat to the warmth of a nearby neighborhood restaurant. And we would need the nourishment for the following days events.
The morning brought a corn field maze for ATV's. The Girl Scout troop would be testing their skills aboard the machines as they scooted through the brisk morning air. The lessons would flow into the afternoon until the girls tiredly climbed back into the truck. But their naps would be short-lived as I headed back up the Hudson, across the Tappan Zee, and arrived in Sleepy Hollow. Only a few short days away from Halloween, the small hamlet along the river was bustling with revelers. Philipsburg Manor had been transformed into a nightmarish spectacle of horror. Tickets were not for the faint of heart as screams could be heard clear across the roadway. All the streets and walkways were lit by candlelight. We enjoyed a hay bale seat under the horseman's statue as the kids stood in the town square trying to take in all the sights and sounds of Halloween.
We made our way to the Old Dutch Church for a telling of the tale. A lone storyteller walked amongst the 200-year-old pews of the church. His voice boomed as he recounted the life of Ichabod Crane. He skillfully played all the characters of the story and enthralled the audience with his telling. The tale played out in the flickering candles of the church as the old organ supplied the background mood. It was with pure enjoyment that I sat on the wooden bench, not just because of the story or the acting or the warmth of the wood stove but my family sitting quietly without phone or TV or any other screen or distraction, captivated by the voice in the musty air, a transportation back in time.
The cool night air woke us from the dream, stinging our faces that were aglow from the wood stove back inside. We shuffled down the dark paths back to the truck, past the living incarnation of the horseman as he sat upon his steed in the town square. Both the rider and mount posed for pictures with haunted manor guests. We quickly hustled passed the horse and ghost back to our truck. The place a little further down the road held more Halloween for us. Our reservation was for 8:30 and the time was near. The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze held in Croton-on-Hudson would be our last destination for the evening. The crowds were heavy to view the pumpkin art that filled the place. Most of the folks attending the event were not very pleasant as they shoved their way through the maze of gourds. Some did not even seem interested in the art or the event. This was a definite departure from the quiet confines of the warm church we had just left. The place was loud and crowded and quite crass. The art was remarkable but hard to enjoy as the throng moved as one down the narrow roped paths. The concessions here were over-priced and the overall feel was one of commerce and not one of tradition. Though the carvings were incredible and a visit to this event should be had at least once just to see what all the hub-bub is about, it is doubtful that we will make a return trip next year. Our truck will most likely stop a few miles prior at the Old Dutch Church.
Halloween ended with bags full of candy and little sore feet, great big smiles from thoughtful costumes, and hair still slightly tacky from Mischief Night escapades. We had more than made up for a lost Halloween from a year ago. It was now time to dream of turkey and sweet potatoes and backstraps and hunting seasons, and, hopefully, snow.