Lights, Camera, Action

A year or two back, a neighbor’s grown granddaughter was visiting with her kids from Long Island for a little R&R. And it was Halloween. And they always arrive sort of late in the day, after the kids get out of school.

This time around, they were turning right around quick on arrival day for an outing to the Great Jack o’Lantern Blaze “the tri-state (sic) area’s biggest, most electrifying Halloween event!” according to its website. As a photographer, I love pointing my camera at new subjects, and this intrigued me but the details were less than ideal. Having just pulled in, they were now driving down and then back again later that night. What the???

The thing was hours away. Advance purchase was required. The sun had already set when the subject came up… That meant they would be driving in the dark, half or two-thirds of the way back from whence they came to see it. They had in-fact pre-purchased tickets. They’re Halloween nuts! So, the cost of admission and the extra drive time were small prices to pay.

I believe they had a great time.

This year, my lady Renee suggested we go to a Halloween spectacular in the lower Hudson Valley. I didn’t put two and two together. She pulled up the website, and gasped at the ticket prices. I think they charge more way ahead of time, reducing prices to fill gaps in the schedule as the date(s) draw nearer.

By November, this trap is a veritable bargain…

With the pandemic raging, the idea of a nice outdoor attraction, with staggered start times was appealing – but the Blaze also had time limits. You have to walk through the attraction in something like 30 minutes.

Well, between the steep price of admission, the roundtrip drive (apparently, I most strongly objected to this part) and the time limit, the idea was scrapped.

Then, something ma-gi-cal happened… My lady learned of the “Hollowed Harvest” attraction at the Altamont Fair Grounds. At about half the distance, half the price and with scheduled start times but no time limits, this was the event for us. We booked for an early October Thursday night, after dark but not too late.  Figuring to beat the crowds, but still be in a Halloween frame of mind, we looked forward and we waited.

The day before our designated visit a storm rocked the region and knocked out power to the site. Late on the day we were due to visit, we were informed the show would not go on. Our tickets would be honored later in the month.

If I had ever seen a smile turned upside down, I saw one that day…

OK, this was an opportunity to expose her to my favorite Mexican restaurant. We called in a take-out order and were home enjoying the feast in no time.

After several additional weeks of waiting, the big night came once again and we dodged countless deer on our drive from the town of Jewett, in the Catskills (between Hunter and Windham), to Schenectady County – where I’ve photographed a few weddings, but never a Hollowed Halloween extravaganza.

Parked, masked and in the designated time slot we walked toward the exhibit.

What the??? After a brief look at the doughnut and cider stand ($4 for a microwaved cup of supermarket cider?!?) and a “No thank you” to the poor soul staffing the unlit replacement window lead generation tent, we made our way toward the light.

“COME TOWARD THE LIGHT…”

Little vignettes of electrified faux pumpkins lined the loop around the fair grounds. Stacked, or arranged in the shape of various figures from clowns to dinosaurs, to aliens, and so forth… I snapped a few photos and realized Renee was moving farther away.

This is always the risk when you’re taking pictures. The rest of your party might be ready to move on while you’re still making adjustments and clicking the shutter.

Some of these creations were cute. Some were silly. Some well done and some more poorly executed. We realized immediately they were not actual pumpkins, but man-made replicas likely cast in the shapes we were looking at.

Then the unspeakable happened. Almost at the very end, right before the magnificent illuminated arch offering “Happy Halloween” before you exit, we saw it.

Behind the larger-than-life pumpkin-inspired creation. Or, rather, at the back of the creation. It was flat. A flat board on which these things were mounted, wired and lit. They weren’t even three-dimensional.  Waaaaah!

I laughed. Renee sighed. We felt even more cheated than before. On the way home she suggested I google the other thing, down in Croton-on-Hudson, because this display looked like the photos of that one. YUP, basically the same thing. Probably parts from the same factory. Now, we were both glad we’d opted out of the tri-state’s biggest and best.

Honestly, I think we had fun. It wasn’t awful, just awfully disappointing considering the buildup and delay. Would it be great for young kids? Maybe. The ones behind us hadn’t made much noise for or against. Would we go again? Uh, no.

Considering the anticlimactic nature of this entire year, Halloween included, it was better than nothing.

On Oct. 31, with a belly full of her homemade manicotti, we tried for little more holiday cheer with a screening of It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, which this year was routed to Apple TV depriving generations of viewers from the ABC tradition. That was great as always.

Afterward, we watched about five minutes of the original Halloween. I had to shut it off right at the beginning when Donald Pleasance left the nurse in the car outside the asylum. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it start-to-finish, and this apparently will not be the year.

Thanks for reading. Reach out, if I can be of any help. You can also find, follow & like Jonathan Ment Photography on Facebook and at www.catskillsphotographer.com and check out the broad-topic’d “Observational Ramblings” of the Ment Media Group’s “Business Blog.”

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