I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.
Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.
“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project
This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.
Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.
This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.
I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of Spring
I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events. Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.
What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).
The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant
Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.
For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.
The blueberry pie cookies
During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.
The bakery case at the farm
Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.
The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead
Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.
History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:
In 1769, Abram Demaree bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809 (Farm History website).
The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months
In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).
Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburg Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).
Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the summer months
What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts.
Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.
The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store
The greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from.
Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.
The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited
From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road
The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entree items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies. Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).
Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).
During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.
This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.
What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.
Demarest Farm Store decorated for Christmas
The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.
Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.
The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.
The History of Demarest Farms:
The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.
In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).
In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).
Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event
Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.
The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road
I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.
Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.
History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:
The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).
My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.
The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff
I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.
The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.
In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.
The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.
The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.
The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods
Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.
What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.
The History of Abma Farm:
First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).
The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).
The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.
I love this video on the family and about the farm.
There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.
Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm
Every October my neighbors decorate their home to the hilt on Halloween and every year they drag out this strange scarecrow out among their other decorations. I tease my neighbor that it looks like it wants to “rape and pillage the neighborhood”. I just think the thing looks mischiefest. She just laughs at me.
So over the years I have named this decoration “Giggles the Scarecrow” and created a story line for him:
“The Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”:
“When bad boys and girls come to our neighborhood on Halloween Night ready to perform more tricks then treats, Giggles will come to life and grab’em. He will then take’em away to his haunted home in the woods. Hee, Hee, Hee.”
Okay, I had a lot of time on my hands to think on Halloween Night. It is the era of COVID.
What do you think? Do you want to test the “Legend of Giggles the Scarecrow”?
“Giggles the Scarecrow” on Halloween day in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ.
This Halloween was very subdued but not entirely canceled this year.
New Jersey still allowed Trick or Treating even though I saw very few children outside on the one nice sunny day we had seen in over two weeks. Because of the recent hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast, we got the tail of the last two storms. It had been cloudy and gloomy for almost three weeks and Halloween day was the first nice day we had. I could see that people wanted to get out of the house.
In the era COVID, I could not see too many people going out Trick or Treating. It was an unusual Halloween for me as I was usually preparing for a long day of working at the Halloween Parade in Manhattan but because of COVID that parade was cancelled. This on top of pretty much any other Halloween related activity. Things were done on a smaller scale. I saw small children Trick or Treating in our downtown business district and some parents were weaving between businesses to talk to merchants.
Residents in our community really decorated their houses and in some cases overdid it. I felt like I was passing mini cemeteries and houses of horror. I can understand that parents wanted to bring some sense of normalcy to their families in this extremely rough time.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I started the day at a drill with the fire department. We spent the morning using the Hurst tools and practicing cutting a van. The department was practicing rescuing people from a trapped vehicle. It was a good training session as we all got chances to cut parts of the van and then get a small lecture on our work. At the end of the day, we had a wrap up session and then a pizza lunch. It was nice to just relax after a busy morning.
Our new coach, Mel Tucker, lead Michigan State University to victory
When I got home I arrived in time to watch the forth quarter of the Michigan State versus University of Michigan game. After the disaster we had the week before with Rutgers, we needed this win badly. I would like to say it was a back and forth game but we dominated them for most of the game and pulled out the win 27-24. Watching the Michigan players leave the stadium with all the arrogance gone was enjoyable. This since their coach practically forced the Big Ten to play when COVID is raging all over the country.
Beating Michigan every year is a pleasure!
Don’t miss the highlights from the game. It was something!
After the game was over, my best friend, Kris and I had a long and very excited conversation about the game which is the bragging rights of Michigan and that is a big deal between both sets of Alumni.
I looked outside on the sunny day and saw absolutely no Trick or Treaters. The Halloween Parade Committee had sent out an email earlier in the week that the Spider Puppet would be ‘crawling out of’ Jefferson Market Library on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 10th Street plus there would be a slide show in Times Square. With no other plans and a beautiful night ahead of me, off I went into Manhattan.
My first stop was Times Square which is a hop, skip and jump from Port Authority. I swear the whole area was crowded with people in costume having a wonderful time. I was surprised with the COVID going on how many people especially young families with children were not wearing masks. They were wearing costumes with no face coverings including the children.
Since the parade was cancelled, people had their own makeshift parade and were laughing, yelling and having a good time talking to one another in the closed off portion of Times Square between West 42nd to West 45th Streets along Broadway. I could see people just wanted to don a costume and forget all their troubles. I never realized how much people enjoyed the parade and how much they missed it.
Times Square on Halloween Night 2020
Try as I might, I could not find that billboard with the pictures of the Halloween Parade on it and I could not remember if they posted a side street with the information so I walked about four blocks around the square looking for the billboard and admiring the costumes.
I decided to head to the Village to see the spider puppet emerge from the library. That was another busy neighborhood. All the side street around Sixth Avenue were jammed with people in restaurants and bars. Here they were wearing masks to a point. When they were seated in extremely crowded restaurants, it was mask off. I could tell though again people were having a good time. Everyone looked fatigued and just needed to let off a little steam.
Pumpkin Men greeted people at the Stonewall Inn on Halloween Night
I watched as the puppet did emerge and dance around the outside of the library, which is a beautiful Victorian structure. The spider crawled out of the tower and I could see the puppeteers from the balcony above directing the spider.
The spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library on Sixth Avenue
The spider is the creation of artist Basil Twist, a professional puppeteer with a studio on Leroy Street in the Village who constructed the puppet in 1994. He created the puppet as an homage to one of the original puppets in the parade that was founded by Roger Lee in the 1970’s. The artist usually waits until the marchers in the Halloween Parade get to Eighth Street to release the puppet. (DNA Info Danielle Tcholakian).
Artist Basil Twist with his spider in the clock tower of the Jefferson Market Tower
Artist Basil Twist is an American born artist originally from San Francisco and now resides in New York City. He is a third generation puppeteer and is the only American to graduate from the Ecole Superieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionette in France. He is an artist, puppet designer, director and guest lecturer at many colleges.
A video on artist Basil Twist’s work
On quiet Sixth Avenue that only a year before on a 71 degree night where throngs of people walked uptown in the Halloween Parade, I watched the spider dangle from the library and dance down the side of the building. There were very few people to watch the show but the spider did its thing amusing all of us who watched it.
Just as I started to watch the slide show across the street from the library that was being shown of clips of the Halloween Parade, I ran across Grace, our fearless leader of the Parade who checks me in every year before I work the gate. I could barely recognize her under the mask. She and the creator of the Halloween Parade, Jeanne Fleming, were watching the spider too and running the slide show of past parades on the side of a apartment building across Sixth Avenue.
Jeanne Fleming, our fearless leader & Founder of the Halloween Parade
Grace and I talked for a bit while watching the spider crawl down from the balcony about how different a year makes. The Village was still busy with people walking on the streets with costumes and bars and restaurants packed with people enjoying the warm October night. It was definitely strange not to see thousands of people walk up Sixth Avenue after all these years but next year brings hopeful optimism.
The full Moon was in its magnificence that evening
I said my goodbyes to her and Jeanne and took one last stroll around the Village with its outdoor dining and costumed revelers and hoped things would work out. Then I noticed the beautiful full moon overhead. I had never seen one so bright on Halloween Night. No witches crossing the moon but a brightness to light the way into better years ahead.
Still I was also able to sneak up to Croton on the Hudson for the Annual “Pumpkin Blaze” that is sponsored by the Hudson River Historical Society. It was a much toned down event than last year and at 25% capacity was much easier to get through the displays. I had never seen so few people at the event but in the era of COVID it is smarter to have a smaller crowd and have the event than to have nothing. It is the Historical Society’s biggest fundraiser and people were having a good time.
The Van Cortlandt Manor ablaze with sights and sounds in its pumpkin cemetery
The Blaze was amazing with all the music, sites and sounds. I loved the MoMA version of the museum with pumpkin portraits and the Pumpkin Bridge, Ferris Wheel and Spider Webs. There was even a Croton on the Hudson fire truck and ambulance in dedication to all the hard work during COVID. Smaller yes but no less wonderful. I am glad that ran the event.
The Pumpkin Ferris Wheel at the Pumpkin Blaze at Croton on the Hudson
One of the Pumpkin Paintings based on “The Scream”
Van Cortlandt Manor in all its ghoulish delight the night of “The Blaze”
Justin Watrel (the blogger) at “The Pumpkin Blaze” during the Halloween holidays
I had the most amazing Chinese meal at New Happy Garden at 440 South Riverside Avenue #440 in the ShopRite Mall next to the Blaze and I highly recommend the restaurant. The Orange Chicken with Pork Fried and egg rolls.
A much more toned down Halloween than in the past but between the all events it made Halloween a more special time to get my mind off everything going on in the world.
Highlights from the Halloween Parade 2019
The First Annual Miniature Halloween Parade: The gift of the Halloween Parade Committee in 2020
My neighbor’s Scarecrow, Giggles. I think this thing is evil (Ha Ha)
Places to Visit:
Hasbrouck Heights Home Decorations
Drive around our Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Bergen County for Halloween and Christmas decoration every October and December
The Halloween Parade
The Parade steps off at 7:00pm on Halloween Night starting at Canal Street in Manhattan
The Jefferson Market Library (to see the Spider Puppet)
Since my thirty two mile walk around the Island of Manhattan, I have stayed clear of New York City for the time being while things calm down a bit. Since my walk and even on Father’s Day weekend there have been a rash of shootings and thirteen people murdered in various neighborhoods. The papers said they have not seen anything like this since the late 90’s before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and started to clean things up in New York City. What really spooked me is that I walked through parts of Harlem that were affected the day of the shootings especially between East 145th to East 118th Streets before I got on the riverfront walkway. I still can’t believe that people would act this way at a time like this.
Still between work and the fire department keeping me busy, it has been hard to get back into the City. Phase Three is slowly being introduced in but indoor seating has been put on hold. Outdoor dining has been cautious and the museum and parks have been slow to open. I just got a email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that they will be opening on August 25th and 26th for a ‘Members Private Night’. It will be interesting to see if that happens.
Upstate New York in Dutchess County is slowly opening up with precautions and we are now entering the ‘new normal’ that I would not have even thought about when I was running around the City and Upstate during the holiday season. I glad I made the visits I made when I did. You can’t do that now.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we have been pretty much limited on what we can do and needing exercise and to get out of the house, I have been walking to our downtown and around the blocks exploring my own town. The Hasbrouck Height Chamber of Commerce recently sponsored “A Stroll Downtown” for our residents for people to explore their downtown and visit the restaurants and stores that are open for limited business and outdoor dining. With the weather getting warmer, people are tired of getting cooped up in their homes and want to get outside and enjoy the weather (yes, we are all wearing masks when necessary).
So every evening, I walk the Boulevard, our business district in Hasbrouck Heights and over time I have really noticed a lot more of our downtown. There is an array of architecture that dates back to the late 1800’s and historical markers that I had never really noticed before.
I start my walk every evening with a turn around the corner from my home and I walk down Williams Avenue to the Boulevard which starts our small part of downtown on our side of town. What is interesting about Williams Avenue is that is was used as an escape route for George Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War from the Battles in Hackensack and Paramus with the British.
The Battles in Hackensack and Paramus during the Revolutionary War
Our area of New Jersey has a very prominent place in Revolutionary War history with local battles with the British.
Washington’s forces retreated down Williams Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights after the Battle in Hackensack NJ
Before rounding Williams Avenue onto the busy Boulevard, which is a County of Bergen road, you will pass Corleone’s Pizza at 205 Williams Avenue, one of the newest pizzeria/restaurant’s in Hasbrouck Heights. Their pizza and sandwiches are really good anchored by their rich Marinara Sauce and well priced lunch specials. Outdoor dining here is rather unusual on such a busy road but makes it almost seem like you are in the City.
Walking to the downtown area is only a few blocks away passing many homes that have stood in town since the late 1800’s to the 1930’s. Hasbrouck Heights has a diversity of types of homes so it makes walking around interesting especially if you are into historic homes and architecture.
Back in the early 2000’s, our former Mayor Rose Heck, started a beautification of the downtown area by cutting down the old trees and opening the buildings to more sun and creating a whole new landscape by bricking the new sidewalks and adding flowering cherry trees that bloom an abundance of colors in the Spring.
On the new wrought iron lampposts we have pictures of the graduates of Hasbrouck Heights High School, who missed the last four months of school (but recently had their graduation socially distanced on the football field) and American flags that are placed for Memorial Day, Flag Day and the Forth of July. During Christmas time, wreaths and white lights adorn them.
I always start on the right side of the Boulevard as you approach downtown. The downtown starts with the historic Corpus Christi Church at 215 Kipp Avenue. The complex with the historic parish house, which had once been a well-known doctor’s home in the late 1890’s sits between Washington Place, home to many historic Victorian homes and Kipp Avenue, the start of the business district.
The original part of the Church that was built in 1896 was moved from across the street to its current location when the parish bought the Dunstan estate in 1914. The church has been added onto twice in 1934 and 1957.
The parish house is the historic Dunstan mansion on the original estate grounds.
The business district runs from Kipp Avenue in town to the circle at Passaic Avenue. Since there are numerous businesses, I wanted to point out the ones that I have enjoyed and been a patron of for years.
Our newest Chinese restaurant, China House at 250 Boulevard, opened (ironically on March 13th when everything was shutting down) just off Kipp Avenue. This small take out restaurant has a few small tables to dine in, which I did the first week it was open (now due to COVID-19 it is just take out). Their General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are really good. The family that runs the restaurant is really nice and has been offering opening discounts.
The nice thing about our downtown is the diversity of stores and restaurants. One of the most unique shops is the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard. One of the few stores in the State of New Jersey that specializes in Catholic gifts, it has an array of merchandise from crosses to crucifixes and at the holidays there is a selection of jewelry, books, figurines, statuary and selected gifts both religious and secular.
Next to the Religious Shoppe at 220 Boulevard (the other side of the building) is Sophia’s Kitchen, a very popular Greek restaurant that opened several years ago and continues to grow in popularity. Their food and service are excellent and after many great reviews in both the local papers and on the internet has been a destination restaurant ever since. You need to wait for tables between Thursday and Saturday nights.
The Religious Shoppe and Sofia’s Mediterranean Grill during the Summer months
Their gyro sandwiches are delicious with a side of their garlic fries and they have this shrimp appetizer, the Shrimp Sanganaki, that is cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese that is out of this world. Their Baklava is sweet and buttery and soaked in honey in all layers. They also have a dessert called Galactoboureko, a sweet custard wrapped in phyllo dough, that is amazing.
Crossing over Franklin Avenue to the next block, you will find a series of interesting shops with Young Fashions at 208 Boulevard, for beautiful children’s wear and Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard for custom made and vintage painted furniture.
Young Fashions at 206 Boulevard
My review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com:
Owner Addie Carrino greets all her customers personally
Young Fashions is a Lilliputian dream for the well-dressed child and a favorite for grandparents and aunts and uncles all over Bergen County. This delightful store still carries quality clothing for children from infant to age 12. Owner Addie Carrino still believes that there are children that still dress nicely and provides clothing from head to toe for them. She offers complimentary pressing of items when bought and free gift wrapping.
Not Too Shabby (now closed 2020-online business orders) is run by Addie’s daughter, Liz Carrino, who brings to life her custom painted furniture and one of a kind pieces. She loves vintage furniture from the Depression era and all sorts of decorative pieces for the home and office. Take time to walk around the aisles of furniture and knick knacks.
Not Too Shabby at 206 Boulevard (now closed 2020-Online Business)
Please watch the video on the creativity of the business (now closed but online):
Next to Not Too Shabby at 202 Boulevard, the new and much enlarged Dumpling Chinese Restaurant moved to from their old location at 220 Boulevard (now the home to China House). The restaurant is much bigger and brighter than their old restaurant and has lots of places to sit down (during the COVID-19 pandemic it is strictly pick-up and delivery). They made a wonderful Lemon Chicken and Moo Shu Pork and their dumplings are not bad too.
Walking further down the Boulevard I always pass the Masonic Temple at 200 Boulevard, one of the oldest buildings in Hasbrouck Heights. The Euclid Masonic Lodge has been in existence for 145 years and its stately building has been part of the downtown since anyone can remember.
As you walk to the next two blocks you will reach the Circle which is the home to many a Christmas Celebration with the annual Tree Lighting after Thanksgiving. One little unique local landmark we have is the old ‘Neil Parrot Playhouse’ that sits on the Circle and is decorated for the holidays. In 2016 a group of concerned citizens got together to have the little dollhouse, which matched the home of the old Neil Parrot business office and home of Neil Parrot, a local realtor. He used the little house to amuse children while their parents did business with him.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Hasbrouck Heights Circle
The Circle at the corner of Boulevard and Passaic Avenue is the official end of the Business District and is where all holiday events take place with the Tree Lighting at the end of November and the Holiday Choir performing.
The pine trees at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights add to a festive mood at the holidays
On the other side of the Circle from the old Neil Parrot Dollhouse is the Firemen’s Memorial where every Memorial Day and 9/11 Day, we on the fire department have our special ceremonies and events. It really is a place of reflection and a nice place to sit and think. I like to take time and look at the names of fire fighters from the past.
I like to take a break here but move on I do very quickly and I start the walk on the other side of the Boulevard.
Another nice restaurant that I enjoy going to is Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard. The restaurant is now serving outdoor diners and has delivery and take out. Still the outdoor dining is really popular. When it is open, it is the local watering hole for customers all over Bergen County who enjoy a good mixed drink, their wonderful pub food and watching the games. Their pizza and burgers are really good and they have a nice assortment of appetizers.
Walking past the Heights Bar & Grill there is a bevy of small businesses and commercial banks housed in older and modern buildings. The architecture in our downtown is a combination of old and new and old becoming new again.
A new addition to our restaurant scene and adding a little ‘hipster’ to Hasbrouck Heights is the new KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard that just opened last year. It had been an old convenience store for years and the new owners stripped it down to the bearings where is looks like a combination of Williamsburg meets Beacon, NY. The food is reasonable and they have nice sandwiches and wraps. The nice part is when the place was open pre-COVID-19, they had entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights. It was nice to hear saxophonists and guitar players rather than the usual garage bands. It gives the downtown a little diversity from all the pizzerias and Chinese take out places.
KTB Coffee Shop & Lounge at 183 Boulevard now has outdoor dining
The next few blocks is studded with service businesses, hair salons and banks and then you have a series of restaurants some opening in recent years. On the corner of Hamilton Avenue and the Boulevard replacing the long service Carroll’s Fashion which had been that location for about thirty years. Bella Pizza opened at 193 Boulevard. The pizzeria has quickly established itself in town among the other six pizzerias we have and makes the most amazing calzones and Sicilian pies.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights, a branch of the popular Rutherford, NJ restaurant is at 203 Boulevard is one of the growing fine dining restaurants added to our downtown. It is always been busy at the holidays and in the COVID-19 era has a small outdoor dining area to sit and relax while you enjoy dishes like Shrimp Risotto and Veal Milanese.
The Risotto House of Hasbrouck Heights at 203 Boulevard
One of the nicest stores in Hasbrouck Heights especially at each of the holidays is Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard. Their window displays are some of the best in the downtown area and are especially nice at Christmas and Easter. I love their selection of gifts at the holidays and their owner always makes special arrangements for me when visiting the cemetery. The business is housed in an old home that has been in the downtown since the 1880’s and was renovated to its beauty by the owner.
Heights Flower Shoppe is always special at the Christmas holidays
The historic Lovey’s Pizzeria at 211 Boulevard and has been in town since the early 1960’s. There is a small dining room in the restaurant and I have been partial over the years to their fried calzones and their ravioli with red sauce. The current owner bought the pizzeria from her parents who had owned it all those years.
Lovey’s Pizzeria & Ristorante at 211 Boulevard with Summer dining
One of my favorite Chinese take out places in Hasbrouck Heights is Ho Mei Kitchen at 227 Boulevard. I enjoy many of the dishes here especially their Lemon Chicken, their House Fried Rice and they have the best egg rolls in town. Their lunch specials are really reasonable and you can order them until 4:00pm. They are like a dinner. The family who owns the place are really nice and have set up an interesting system of ordering in the COVID-19 era.
Crossing the street at Jefferson Avenue are three of the oldest businesses in town along with Lovey’s Pizzeria, Height Floral Shoppe and Young Fashions is Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and the Boulevard at 231 Boulevard has been opened since the 1960’s as well.
Like Heights Flower Shoppe, Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is always so nicely merchandised with the wonderful flower arrangements for a quick pickup, nice assortments of candy and stuffed animals and creative gift items for the home at the holidays. Their owners are really nice and accommodating. They also have a nice Open House at the opening of the holiday season.
The owners of Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts, John and Linda Kosakowski, at their Food Drive.
Bill O’Shea’s Easter Open House 2021
The newest addition to Downtown Hasbrouck Heights is Ralph’s Ice Cream & Ices at 239 Boulevard that opened in the height of the COVID pandemic just in time to cheer a town up that really needed it. The store opened in the summer of 2020 to long lines and gave everyone an excuse to done a mask and meet their neighbors for a sweet treat.
Fisher’s Cafe at 245 Boulevard is another restaurant that has been in town since the 1960’s and is a popular place for breakfast and lunch with a lot of the locals who make this their place to eat. Fisher’s is very popular for their breakfast dishes and platters and is a hang out after school for the junior high and high students for their burgers and grilled cheese.
Another long time merchant in Hasbrouck Heights is Spindler’s Bake Shop at 247 Boulevard, which had reopened after a few years of being closed by the family. The bakery has been a Hasbrouck Heights institution since the 1950’s by the current owners grandparents.
Ginny & Bob Spindler at their store as the next generation of bakers.
They are well-known for their butter cookies arrangements, their fresh rolls and their apple and lemon turnovers are melt in your mouth good! The staff is always friendly and the smells of the baked goods as you enter the store are sensational.
The baked goods are so good! Don’t miss their Lemon Turnovers!
Their Lemon Turnovers are excellent!
As you pass by Spindler’s Bake Shop, you will walk the next block over and pass Kipp Avenue again to the end of the official part of the Business District and start walking back to Williams Avenue past residential and commercial properties and Corpus Christi Church again until you reach our Municipal Building.
In a small strip of stores across from our new Town Hall that was built in 2004 are two very popular restaurants, Tom Young Koong, at 305 Boulevard and Heights Pizzeria at 313 Boulevard which have both adapted to the COVID-19 era of outdoor dining and take-out/delivery.
Tom Young Koong is a very well-known destination Thai restaurant that is very busy between Thursday and Saturday nights. Their assortment of appetizers that include Chicken Satay, Curry Puffs, Fried Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Noodle are excellent and they have the most delicious Pad Thai which is wonderful with Chicken and Shrimp. The food is cooked by the owner with recipes that came from his mother. The service is always friendly and the owners are really nice.
Hasbrouck Heights Pizza (Heights Pizza to locals) at 313 Boulevard has been popular since it opened its doors almost a decade ago. Their pizza is so popular that people order it from several towns away and even during the worst storms even Hurricane Sandy, it never closed and was as busy as ever. Everything here is delicious and it is known not just for its regular Cheese Pizza but their Grandma Pizza, their Pepperoni Calzones, Specialty pies and their entrees are excellent and restaurant quality. The place is always busy so the staff and drivers run in and out of the place. The outdoor dining is even popular from early Spring until it gets cold in October.
When arriving back at Williams Avenue, I cross the Boulevard again with Corleone’s Pizzeria in the distance and their well lit tables. Two other businesses have been in town a long time in this series of stores.
Danson Jewelers at 201 Williams Avenue has been in Hasbrouck Heights since the 1980’s and does a nice job on repairs of watches and jewelry and has a nice selection of watches. The service is very friendly and the family that owns it gets to know their regulars.
Another long service merchant who has been assisting residents for years is Heights Specialty Pharmacy (the former BeJay Drug Store) at 450 Boulevard. The staff has been here for years and is helpful to many of our senior residents. The owners wife runs a small gift shop both in the store and a few doors down has a separate shop.
The last merchant I pass on my way home is Jerry’s Barber Shop at 406 Boulevard, which has been here since the 1920’s when Jerry’s father ran the business. Jerry has been cutting my hair since 1988 and is one of the only people I trust to do it correctly. I even waited for trips home from Hawaii, Guam and California when I lived in those places to get my hair cut. A haircut here is still $14.00 and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend him.
Then I round the corner and am on my way home again. For such a small town, Hasbrouck Heights has the most interesting and historic downtown that few residents appreciate when you look at the history and longevity of our merchants. A few long time merchants have closed their doors as they have either retired or COVID-19 has affected the business.
During the holiday season, the town really rolls out the welcome mat. People in town love to decorate and entertain. In this COVID era, some things have been toned down such as large parties and parades. All the Christmas concerts have been cancelled as school has been put into both virtual and life classes.
Still the spirit of the town can be felt from Halloween to the New Years as people decorate their homes and businesses welcome people to open houses and will cater to small parties of people.
Halloween in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Every year I look forward to the Downtown Merchants Open Houses with their bright creative display windows and small indoor entertainments as people come to shop and converse with their neighbors.
Right before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Bill O’Shea Flowers had their annual Open House with Christmas music and lots of pre-wrapped goodies to enjoy and take home. The store was beautifully decorated with all sorts of treasures that customers could buy, I love just walking around and grabbing a snack while shopping every year.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts is a delight at the Christmas holidays
Bill O’Shea’s Florist & Gifts welcomes you at Christmas
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Heights Flower Shoppe had their Annual Open House and it was just as spectacular. One tries to outdo the other in a friendly rivalry.
Heights Flower Shoppe has the most interesting merchandise
Heights Flower Shoppe pulls out all stops to welcome you at the holidays
My twenty one years on the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association has done a lot to my back after years at Macy’s selling rugs as well. The Annual Christmas Tree Sale was a HUGE success this year. We sold out in less than two weeks, ending the sale on Friday night, December 11th selling a record 375 trees. We want to thank the residents of Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns for their support on our Scholarship Fund event.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at the set-up being COVID safe
As we ready for Christmas 2020 next week and the coming of a new and hopefully better New Year, the town has done its job to cheer us up. The Annual Christmas Tree lighting was not advertised but happened anyway and welcomes people at our western border of town.
Our town Christmas tree at the Circle
The Neil Parrot playhouse is even decorated at the Circle
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights welcomes you at Christmas
Even though the Annual Holiday Parade was cancelled, we will still be welcoming Santa at Santa Around Town the last Sunday of December before Christmas. This Annual tradition on the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department has the whole town in the Christmas spirit as Santa visits them in their own neighborhoods.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2019
The Brothers of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020!
As the State of the New Jersey slowly opens again, I can still walk my entire downtown in the evenings and appreciate the fact that sometimes small town living is not so bad and it is still only twenty minutes and twelve miles to Midtown Manhattan.
This is what walking is all about. Discovering things close to home.
Watch this video on our town and try to locate some of the older homes still standing.
I can’t believe that Halloween is over again! It comes and goes so quickly and I can already see the traces of Christmas on its way. There are times that I can’t believe that July and August go by so fast and then there are the holidays.
Halloween, as you can see by the last few years of this blog, have become more than just handing out Halloween treats to kids at my house. In fact, even when I have been home I rarely see trick or treaters, the most being 14 kids about ten years ago. Kids today at least in my part of the neighborhood have little interest in doing this anymore.
Halloween started for me on the first weekend of October with the ‘Pumpkin Blaze’ at the Van Cortlandt Manor (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). Last year I saw the Blaze on the last weekend it was open on the first weekend of November and the temperature had dropped to 32 degrees and I said never again. I wanted to see it when it was warm out and I could take my time to really see the displays.
So I asked my Aunt Deloris to attend with me as a delayed birthday present to her and on October 7th we headed up to Croton-on-the-Hudson to see the Annual Pumpkin Blaze. It was unusually warm that night at 62 degrees but there was the threat of rain later that evening. Still for the entire time we were at the Van Cortlandt Manor, it was mild and pleasant. Since we attended on a Monday night long before Halloween, the crowds were not as large.
It was a spectacular display this year with many new displays to ohh and ahh at while walking the paths around the manor. To let you all know, the Pumpkin Blaze is a volunteer event and major fundraiser for the Hudson Valley Historical Society. Thousands of hand-carved pumpkins are illuminated all over the grounds of the estate and the light makes it quite intriguing.
The pumpkin carving starts in late August and early September
As you enter the path into the estate, they are lined completely with lit pumpkins. That lead to the Circus train display and the Tappan Scream Bridge, both made from a combination of real and plastic pumpkins, The train had gotten longer and more detailed over the years with detailed ghostly animals arriving at their destination.
The spooky Circus train
Another display that was amazing was the Museum of Modern Art display that had with copies of famous works in pumpkins. It was in honor of the renovation and extension of the museum.
The Andy Warhol Soup Can
The Headless Horseman Scream
As we exited the ghostly museum, you pass the musical carousel and the Albany Post Road that was lined pumpkins. There were pumpkin jack in the boxes, pumpkin dinosaurs and pumpkin mummies. The displays were bigger, more detailed and more elaborate then years past.
The pumpkin carousel
The paths leading to the Van Cortlandt Manor were lined with a pumpkin cemetery and then the dinosaur displays. This lead to the light show at the Van Cortlandt Manor that was lined with pumpkins and a light show that illuminated the house. The house was surrounded by pumpkins of all faces and expressions along the path around the house. This lead to another cemetery that had the Van Cortlandt family names as you exited the property.
Van Cortland Manor at Croton-on-the-Hudson
As we exited the property it lead to a series of tents that carried all sorts of gifts and Halloween items, two different food concessions with hot dogs, cider, homemade doughnuts and popcorn. It was very active after everyone had walked the show.
Then my aunt and I came across this giant pumpkin that was craved out of wood that everyone was taking pictures at and we pose for our own Halloween portrait. That was a lot of fun dodging the other families to take the shot.
My Aunt Deloris and I at the end of the Annual Pumpkin Blaze
Just as we were leaving the site and heading to the car, the heavens opened up and it started to rain. We just made it to the car as it started to pour. As we headed back to New Jersey and crossed over the Tappan Zee Bridge, the rain started to let up to a light dizzle. When we reached Paramus, it was just a light mist.
We stopped for dinner at the Suburban Diner at 172 Route 17 North in Paramus, NJ ( see review on TripAdvisor) for a snack. The snack ended up being a large Turkey Club Sandwich with a side of fries, cole slaw and a pickle. This thing was huge! My aunt ordered a BLT that was just as large and for two people who just wanted a ‘snack’ we devoured everything. I guess it was all that walking.
I continued my Halloween activities to where it all took place, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown, NY, where the months of September, October and early November are very busy. Historic Hudson Valley has lots of events this time of the year, one of them being the Pumpkin Blaze.
Another event I attended was the “Home of the ‘Legend'”, a tour of Washington Irving’s home, ‘Sunnyside’, which is located at 3 West Sunnyside Lane in Irvington, NY (See review on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had visited the house years ago but they now had a Halloween tour of the house.
‘Sunnyside’ was the home of Washington Irving from 1835 until his death in the house in 1859. The house was originally a small two room stone house had been built around 1690 for a tenant farmer and had once been part of the Philipse Manor estate grounds. When Washington Irving bought the house in 1835, eyeing the home when visiting his son Oscar who lived in the area.
Washington Irving’s Sunnyside at 3 West Sunnyside Lane
With his friend, George Harvey, a painter, they created the home in the Romantic style with almost a fairy tale appearance. The ‘storybook’ home is covered in wisteria and has the most beautiful views of the widest area of the Hudson River. The author wrote some of his most famous stories from this house. He lived here with his brother, Ebenezer and his five daughters after his business failed so the house was a busy one.
Washington Irving’s study
The house was sold to John D. Rockefeller for the State by Washington Irving’s great grandson, Louis Irving in 1945 preservation. The house tour is really interesting as the old Victorian wing was torn down to preserve it to the time of Washington Irving so it has the original kitchen, ice house and barn. These ten acres were a working estate.
I got to see Washington Irving’s study and bedroom with the original furnishings which I thought was interesting. It does have a small kitchen for all those people and the bedrooms the rest of the family had were almost the size of today’s contemporary homes. So it must have been tight for the family.
When you exit the kitchen from the back to end the house tour, you head to the back lawn where the ice house is located, the gardens and the barn. There are ten acres to roam around with ponds and streams and again that amazing view of the Hudson River. This tour should not be missed when it opens back up in the Spring.
The last event I went to in Tarrytown was ‘The Unsilent Picture, which took place at the Tarrytown auditorium. The program was a movie based on a story line mystery that takes place one evening and the local actors play out the characters to scare a family member. I was so tired from the cold and it was so boring that I think I fell asleep for five minutes and missed a section of it. I just didn’t get the interest in the whole thing. I would bypass this in the future.
The Unsilent Movie
Here is the trailer for the movie:
One Halloween event you should look into is the Victorian Halloween Tea lecture at the Staatsburg Historical Site/Mills Mansion in Staatsburg, NY. These lecture teas are very interesting and the food is wonderful.
The Staatsburg Historical Site/Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive
I have been a Friend of the Mills Mansion now for about four years finding that I was going to a lot of their events it just made it easier to join and get priority on their special events which are enjoyable. This event was a tea and lecture of how the Victorians recreated Halloween from a dark more countryside evening wrapped in mystery to an engaging urban event with costumes, specialty foods and traditional events like apple bobbing that guests then made their own. Local Historian Carol Kohan discussed how the event went from a dark rural event to fun and engaging holiday.
The Victorian’s made everything elaborate and overdone and the Halloween celebrations were ‘taken up a notch’ with elaborate costumes, parties, bonfires and desserts and candies that were to be served. There were special invitations and cards that were to sent and rules of etiquette.
Following the Civil War and at a time when disease was not understood the way it is now, there was an interest in spiritualism and seances were in vague as people want to reach out to their loved ones. So having a medium at a party was part of the activity. The Victorians knew how to transform a holiday.
During the discussion, we enjoyed an afternoon tea of the specialty Staatsburg Tea blend, a variety of finger sandwiches, pumpkin and cranberry scones and many types of pastries including mini pumpkin cheesecakes, tiny devil’s food cupcakes and assorted sweet cookies. The caterer always does a nice job with the food and service here.
The food at these function are excellent and plentiful
After the tea and lecture, we took a detailed tour of the Mill’s Mansion which I had taken many times but this was with another tour guide and he gave us another perspective to the house. He mentioned stories of the Mills family that I had not heard before and we also got to see how the renovations of the house were going. It looks like the dining room and entrance hall will be finished in time for the holiday party.
All of these activities lead to the big event in my Halloween every year, the NY Greenwich Village Halloween Parade which I have been marshaling now for five years. Participating in the event this year, I got an invitation to go to Rokeby, the estate of the Aldrich/Livingston family to see the puppet rehearsals. This year’s theme to the parade was “Wild Things” and the puppets and costumes were to reflect this.
Because I had the above Afternoon tea at the Mill’s Mansion the next day, I stayed at an Airbnb for the night and that was interesting. I had a feeling that the host really did not want to meet me as she scrambled out the door that night. The room was in a small private home near downtown Kingston and the nice part was that I could enjoy all the restaurants, museums and historical sites (See VisitingaMuseum.com for the sites I visited) and go back to the room to sleep.
After I checked into the Airbnb, it was off to The Rokeby Estate which is a 400 acre property in Red Hook, NY. Most of the artists for the Halloween Parade and the Sinterklass Parade in December (see my blogs on this as well) live on the Rokeby Estate in the homes that surround the old mansion.
The Rokeby Estate in Red Hook, NY
By the time I got up there, it was just starting to get dark and trust me, the roads are not paved going up to the house and it gets dark up there. I parked by the barn where all the magic happens and they create and assemble all the puppets. This was interesting because I got to see all the designs and all the construction areas of the barn.
The rehearsal went by well and they even created music for the puppets to dance to when performing. Then the participants holding the puppets lead everyone to the Rokeby Mansion and we all assembled on the porch which was lit with Christmas lights and watched the performance from there.
The Wild Things at the Puppet Rehearsals at Rokeby
The Max’s of the Wild Things
Watching from the porch of Rokeby was a lot of fun and what a place to view everything. Before it got dark, I got to talk to Tracey and Wilt Aldrich and introduce myself (we are like 12th cousins by marriage) and we got to chat before the performance. I got to see the sun set over the Hudson River from there and it was spectacular. The colors over the mountains was amazing and you can understand why people moved up here.
After rehearsals, it was off to Rhinebeck for dinner at Pete’s Famous, a diner concept downtown that I highly recommend. I had a much needed Hot Turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes ($10.95) and a Coke (see review on TripAdvisor). The main meal was loaded with that thick turkey gravy that diners are known for when serving this dish. The meal started with a Chicken and Rice soup that really warmed me up. It was nice to warm up in the restaurant and chat with the waitstaff.
Pete’s Famous at 34 East Main Street in Rhinebeck, NY has wonderful food
After dinner, I just walked around downtown Rhinebeck, NY knowing that Sinterklass was only four and a half weeks later. I could see that the Christmas lights were being put on the trees already. Then it was off to bed and back to the Mills Mansion for the tea. The parade would be four days later.
Halloween Night was really unusual again this year. The weather was threatening rain all day and it was weirdly warm being 71 degrees and humid that night. Somehow we never saw the rain that night and as it got dark didn’t even notice the clouds.
I got the parade early this year arriving at 3:00pm to meet with the Head Marshal at the gate (and my distant cousin by marriage), Marc Schuyler. I had lucked out and had been invited to the Marshaling meeting the week before which made me better prepared for the parade. By the time I got there, most of the marshals had arrived and I got to work with the locations of people and where everyone was supposed to go.
My ‘cousin’ Marc Schuyler and myself at the parade entrance
With the exception with one pain who lived near by and snuck into the parade route, we did not have one problem this year and getting people into the parade was easy. We had no hassles this year and because it was not raining as expected, the parade route got really busy. People came out for the parade in droves and the costumes were more creative than in previous years.
We got all the bands in, all the ‘Thriller” dancers checked in and all the float people into the park on time and kept the tourists out. By the time we closed the gate at 8:00pm, there was no one left and the parade was in progress. By the time I got to Sixth Avenue and Spring Street, most of the parade was uptown.
I got to see about four floats go up Sixth Avenue and one band before the rest of the parade was people in costume. There was everything from Superheros to cheerleaders in that parade. People dressed as horses, birds and trees. Lots of Jason’s and Freddie Kruger’s and spirits of death. People were dressed like little kids and cartoon characters the list goes on.
There was a small get together after the parade but that was not until 10:00pm so it gave me about an hour to walk around the Village and watch people in action. I swear I walked all over the Village and Soho and every street and restaurant was mobbed! Because it was so warm outside all the outdoor cafes were open. All the outside tables were taken and it seemed that every restaurant was packed with people with more waiting. Even the McDonald’s and littlest pizzerias were busy. With no rain and warm weather, people were in the mood to be outside one last time.
A group of us had light dinner that night at Da Umberto on 107 West 17th Street in the Village and the food and service were wonderful. They had a nice buffet set up for us and we had a choice of a Risotto Bolognese, Penne with a Pesto Cream sauce, Rigatoni with Vodka sauce, or Eggplant Parmesan as the main dish, a wonderful salad with house dressing and a Tiramisu for dessert. The food and the service was excellent and we had a nice evening just sitting around and talking about the parade.
Da Umberto is an excellent restaurant! Make sure to try the pastas
When I left the party around 11:30pm, it was still going strong as was the street party after the parade. People were still eating outside, house parties could be seen from the windows and people were still parading around in their costumes.
When I got home just past Midnight, I felt the first drops of the storm and when I got inside around 12:15am, the heaven’s opened up and did it rain! It pounded the roof. God had really spared us all of that. It was the last night that I slept with the air conditioner on and the heat off because when I woke up it must have dropped 25 degrees and the heat went right back on.
Another Halloween over and here come the Winter and Christmas!
I have been travelling up to the Hudson River Valley much more than usual this Fall. There has been so much going on between the events up at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds since the Fair in August and all the of the ‘Mansion Hopping’ and visiting to historical sites for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, which I have been concentrating on building over the Summer and Fall. I have been visiting on most weekends between September and the end of October.
Travelling up to the Hudson River Valley in the fall is an amazing time. Because of the lack of rain over the summer, the foliage turned much earlier than it usually does and the trees starting turning yellow and red in the end of September and beginning of October as opposed to last year and the year before where it was more the end of October and middle of November.
I started my journey up to Dutchess County right after the Dutchess County Fair at the end of August and continued through the end of October for Halloween events. I had bought a small Santa from a woodcarver for a small Mother’s Day present for my mom and she absolutely loved it so I had to seek him out again at events through the next three months. He was tough to find.
My first trip Upstate was for the Cornell-Marist Football game on September 21st. Because I have to teach college on Saturday mornings I left for the game later in the afternoon and I got to Marist College during the beginning of the second quarter.
The Marist College campus off Route 9 in Poughkeepsie is one of the nicest college campuses I have been to in a while. The campus sits right on the Hudson River and the nice part is that the football stadium is located right off the highway so as I was driving in I could see what was going.
Big Red Football
Long story short it was not the greatest football game I had ever been to and we won 21-7. Cornell University has not invested in its football team the way it should and it was like watching two high school teams play. The funny part was that Marist College and Cornell University have the same school colors so it was hard to see who was rooting for who in the stadium.
The one nice thing about the stadium is that on the other side of the stands of the stadium that Marist has lawn sitting and that is the best way to watch the game. It was also about 85 degrees that afternoon so it was the perfect football weather and I got tan while watching the game.
Sitting on the lawn side of the field is the best place to sit
After the game was over, I decided to explore the campus. God, the Marist College campus is gorgeous. The campus has expanded over the years since I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America and our campus was beautiful as well. Marist College has rolling hills, lush green lawns and the most amazing view of the Hudson River. People should just visit the campus to walk around. The foliage was just starting to turn so the view of the river and the hills that surround it was spectacular.
Homecoming and Reunion Weekend at Marist College
The next weekend I was back Upstate again to the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck for Oktoberfest. This interesting event was the smaller of the two events that I attended at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds after the Annual Fair in August. This was a smaller craft event that took up one section of the fairgrounds mostly where the craft exhibition space had been during the fair and the rides were located. I had gotten this event and the Sheep & Wool event later in the month mixed up and the wood carver was not there (later when I did meet up with him at the Sheep & Wool Festival he said that he was not invited). Still I stayed and explored the fairgrounds on this warm sunny day.
Along the main path, there were all sorts of arts and crafts vendors and gourmet food vendors selling their wares and there were a few food vendors towards the back of the event but the lines were so long that I decided to eat outside the fairgrounds. So I took a trip up to Red Hook, NY which is located just north of the fair grounds and had lunch at Village Pizza III at 7594 North Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some lunch.
The food at this Village Pizza is just excellent and so reasonable as well! I had the most delicious Calzone ($6.95) that was just loaded with mozzarella, Parmesan and Ricotta cheese and was a gooey delight with every bite. Their red sauce that I have mentioned in my of my Upstate New York blogs, is just excellent. Well spiced and loaded with flavor.
Village Pizza III at 7594 Broadway in Red Hook, NY is just excellent for lunch and dinner
I came back two weeks later for the Sheep and Wool Festival which was a whole different experience. The Sheep and Wool Festival which takes place the third week of October was a much bigger festival, larger than Oktoberfest but just a little smaller then the Fair. It was a lot of fun walking through the rows of yarn, specialty crocheted and knitted hats, blankets and baby items plus all the handcrafted items for the upcoming holidays.
The Sheep and Wool Festival
I did find the wood carver, Joe Gleeson, on this trip and was able to buy to small Santa’s that he had in stock. It seemed that he had a good sell through at the Dutchess County Fair and there was not much left and he was just trying to keep up. I love Mr. Gleeson’s surrealist designed Santa’s. After making that purchase, I walked all over the fairgrounds looking over the displays and all the crafts people. There were a lot of interesting vendors offering the most beautiful and interesting items.
Carapace Farm Puppetry by Susannah White
Mr. Gleeson has the most beautiful wooden carvings of Santa’s, Elf’s and Snowman. Bonnie’s Beast’s offered the most creative felt and knit play animals from felt wool. Artist Patricia McGarth created homemade all natural doggie treats that tasted like an all natural cracker. They were not bad to eat for a human. Utopia Bath Ltd. has an interesting bath line and lotions. Artist Susannah White builds and creates puppets through her Carapace Farm Puppetry. She carries the most interesting hand and finger puppets and masks. Artist JoAnn Clark is a fiber artist who specializes in Needle felted folk art. She created the most interesting animal art and figurines. Ameila McIsaac created flowering art through her Flowering Art Homestead company.
The sheep were surprisingly friendly
For lunch, I discovered that Janken’s, the Food Truck vendor I had eaten lunch at during the Fair was at this festival as well and I made the ‘B-Line’ to have lunch there. For $15.00, I got their special again. This was a half pound freshly ground beef patty that was juicy in the center and caramelized on the outside. Then they top it with Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Glazed Ham, Pulled Pork and homemade pickles with a side of freshly made potato-cheese porgies cooked in butter and sweet onions with a side of sour cream. Okay, yes it is not for the cholesterol minded person but I eat this twice a year and do I enjoy it. I walked the Fairgrounds twice just to work it off.
Do not miss the Hamburger and pirogi special at Jayken’s Food Truck
After the time at the Sheep and Wool Festival, it was next to the ‘Pie and Punch Evening” at the Kearney House in the Palisades Interstate Park. I had been to the Kearney House two weeks early on a Sunday but it was closed due to a Square Dance fundraiser they were running so I saw this on the Internet and thought it sounded fun (Please see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house would all be lit by candles and fireplaces as there is no electricity in the house. What could be nicer?
Kearney House at the Alpine Landing is lit by candlelight
Well just to let all you readers know that the Palisades Interstate Park is closed after dusk and does not reopen until it is light out the next day and there are NO lights either on the roads going down the hill to the basin or in the parking lot. When I mean the park is pitch black, it is pitch black. I thought this was dangerous since the road leading to the basin is very steep, not much of a barrier along the cliff side and no lights on the signs. Let’s just leave this that there was a small boulder that I did not see and it did not get out of my way. The next hour in the park was not fun!
After I calmed down and was an hour late for the event, everyone could not have been nicer to me at the get together. Once I relaxed and had some hot spiced punch and a few pieces of pie and some cheese I calmed down. The boulder aside, it was a very nice event and I had a good time.
The Kearney House is an old Revolutionary aged home that had been used by the Kearney family as Inn and resting place for sailors and shippers using the Hudson River back when it was bustling with trade. The family ended up selling it before WWI and it was bought by the parks system. The division that runs the Kearney House and fundraisers for its upkeep run these themed events.
The house was all lit up by candlelight in both rooms and both fireplaces were roaring when I got in the room. It was the pies that calmed me down. They offered three different pies, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple and Pumpkin that were from a bakery in Closter, NJ and were ‘out of this world’ delicious. The apple pie had the sweetest filling and tasted like pears were baked into it along with the apples. The strawberry rhubarb had a tangy-tart sweet filling to it and the pumpkin had a nicely baked creamy almost custard like filling all with this amazingly buttery crust. This is the type of pie that can make you forget all of your problems.
Kearney House story telling
On the table as well were wedges of sharp cheese and accompanying breads, roasted peanuts, ice cold water and served to you by volunteers in period costume. If I had not been so shaken when I entered the house (and of course the couple who helped me with the car told everyone at the party what happened so everyone was extra nice to me) and all the volunteers who helped with the event had not been so nice, it could have been a bad night.
The house lit by candle light and by the fireplace
Still there was a tour of the house both upstairs and into the attic, a musician playing songs and then a half hour of story telling all by the glow of candle and fire light that made the evening special. I ended up having a nice time talking to the other guests and getting to eat the endless slices of pie.
I left a little better than I arrived but I will tell you two things: I am NEVER going into this park again after dark, so matter what the event is and that was the last time I set foot in the Kearny House. It was so dark in the parking lot when I left I almost tripped on the barrier on side the of it.
My next trip up to the Hudson River that next Sunday lead me to Beacon, NY to visit Pollepel Island/Bannerman Castle Island and to visit the mysterious castle in the middle of the Hudson River (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had talked about visiting Beacon, NY in my other blogs for the Third Thursday Shopping nights during the holidays and my visit to the DIA-Beacon in VisitingaMuseum.com.
When visiting Bannerman Island please remember that it is open seasonally and opens in later April and closes at the end of October so you have to plan your trip there accordingly. I got there the last Sunday it was open and please note that you do need advanced reservations to go to the island. I lucked out as there was two trips out to the island that day and there had been a cancellation that afternoon and I was able to make the boat trip.
The trip was on somewhat rough waters as it was a gloomy day with the sun peaking out only at the end of the tour. When we got to the island, we landed at the small dock and then had to walk up over 70 steps to the landing at the top of the hill. It wasn’t hard but hardly ADA compliant. We had excellent tour guide who knew the whole history of the island from when the family bought the island in 1900 to when the sons sold the island in the 1950’s.
The Bannerman Castle was actually an armory for munitions for the Bannerman company. Francis Bannerman IV bought the island to store his inventory of his military supply business and the items were stored there awaiting shipping to all over the world.
The castle itself had partially blown up in the 1920’s when the munitions caught fire and then in turn burned in 1969 and the interiors were destroyed. Recently part of the wall to the castle collapsed so the building is now being held up by metal rods to prevent further collapse.
The tour took us up the path toward the former arsenal so we could take a better look which is pretty dramatic sitting by the water with the vegetative growth around it. Mrs. Bannerman had once had the whole area landscaped with an exotic garden. Now that part is all growth and weeds.
Travelling up the path from the ‘castle’, we walked up the path that had been landscaped by the local garden clubs who have been put in charge of landscaping the old paths and gardens leading to the family mansion at the top of the hill. The mansion is going through a renovation so there is not much to see but there is a small gift shop inside and the history in the building. The outside of the mansion is being landscaped and used for theater show, movie nights and concerts. The views of the river are spectacular.
The view from the mansion on top of the hill
We exited down the back path and saw more interesting views of the Hudson River. There are more gardens on the way down and we heard more of the history of the island in that it was closed off until recently and was only visited by kayakers and adventurers. The island is now open for all sorts of activities.
On our way back, the tour guides gave us their own take on visiting the island which was pretty funny. They run these tours and can’t believe how mesmerized people are by buildings that were falling apart.
As we took the boat ride back to the dock in Beacon, I noticed that the foliage had an unusual line to it up on the hill. It was dead towards the top of the hill and the rest of the trees were combination of yellow and green. The tour guide said that an unusual early frost hit the trees and the ones at the top of the hill had already gone dormant.
It was unusual foliage in Beacon, New York
For the rest of the afternoon, I explored downtown Beacon and all the innovative stores and trendy restaurants. I ended up though eating at a Pizza and Stuff II Pizzeria at 339 Main Street. The pizza there is delicious. Those trendy restaurants prices are ridiculous and I am not too sure how the locals afford some of these places. Still it is a beautiful and quaint downtown with nice businesses set in the distance of the Hudson River mountains. The foliage around the town sets the tone.
As Halloween approaches, there will be more to do and see. Check out my blog on Halloween Again 2019.
I can’t believe that the year went by so fast. I blinked my eye and the leaves changed colors and it was the end of the summer. The weather has been so unpredictable since the beginning of 2018, it is hard to judge the seasons. It was a cold Winter, was cool and rainy most of the Spring, and the Summer was either humid or rainy. We never had normal seasonable days the way we have had in the past. We had two rather nice days around Labor Day Weekend and that was about it.
The Fall became cool very quickly. Where as last year, the leaves did not change colors until November 12th, this year it got really cool early in October and the leaves changed quickly and were off the trees because of constant rain storms. So much for the seasons!
Halloween was the exception to the rule. We had a sudden burst of an “Indian Summer” and the weather to 59 degrees on October 30 and the night of Halloween it was 64 degrees, a perfect night for the Halloween Parade. It was nice to have three days of above 60 degree weather and then by November 2nd back down to 40 degrees. Still it made Halloween more fun and engaging.
Halloween activities ranged from watching films to museum events to the best part of all, the New York Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village. Its more of a lower Manhattan parade now but still keeps it heart in the community. I even designed our shirts for Engine One HHFD with a Jack-o-Lantern logo.
The Engine One Hasbrouck Heights tee-shirt logo.
My first activity of Halloween was visiting the Meadowlands Museum for the Annual Scarecrow Festival. The tough part was it was a gloomy day and there were not many participants. Still the people who came were really artistic and very enthusiastic. There were only a dozen or so scarecrows on the sticks but there were some interesting designs. The sad part was there were only about twenty or so people at the event. This could be a very interesting event if they advertised it more.
Scarecrow Day at the Meadowlands Museum in Rutherford, NJ
The second event I attended was the Ridgewood Schoolhouse Museum Historical Society’s Annual Cemetery Walk through both the Old Dutch Cemetery and the Valleau Cemetery across the street. This is an interesting tour that I did last year by with different actors at the grave sites.
What the Schoolhouse Museum located at 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood does is they wait until nightfall and they take you on a lantern tour of the grave sites of prominent members of the Ridgewood community and an actor plays that person and describes their life and their role in the community.
Joe Suplicki from the Ridgewood Historical Society
Under the direction of Ridgewood historian, Joe Suplicki, who leads the tour into the graveyard with lantern in hand, you will walk a lighted path of luminaries into the heart of the cemetery to the different sites. The most interesting one I found on this tour was the mausoleum of J. J. Newberry, the founder of the discount department store. This company went out of business years ago but I had not realized the family had lived in Ridgewood.
The Cemetery Walk in Ridgewood, NJ.
The tour really does take you to the spooky parts of the cemetery and it is best to stay with the group. Although no one is popping out at you, you still have a creepy feeling from walking around all the tombstones. It is almost a relief to get back to the museum. The best part is that Demerest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ donates their apple cider and cider doughnuts to the museum for the end of the tour and that is a real treat.
You get to munch on doughnuts and listen to ghost stories from the head of the museum around ‘a campfire’. The best part is watching the kids scared from stories that are told and by kids I mean the forty year olds. Their children are too busy on their cell phones. The museum does a wonderful job every year and for the $10.00 donation it a nice tour.
My next venture on the Halloween list takes me to Croton-on-Hudson to the Van Cortlandt Manor to the annual ‘Pumpkin Blaze’. That is a site to see every year. Even though I have visited it over the last five years, I never get tired of looking at it. The estate is illuminated with hundreds of pumpkins. The pumpkins take all sorts of shapes, sizes, carved faces and even in the structures.
When you enter the estate, you are greeted with a form of mortuary, Halloweenish music that sets the tone for the walk. The Pumpkin Blaze has gotten even more popular in the four years that I have been going and I had to get the tickets way in advance. The weather was nice but it had cooled by this point and was in the low 40’s when I got there.
I was part of the last group that arrived at 8:30pm so the place was starting to clear out when I arrived. It is a lot easier coming towards the end of the night as it gives you more time to walk around.
The display was just as spectacular as in years past. You are greeted at the beginning of the path by the river with carved lit pumpkins of all expressions until you reach the pumpkin bridge, ‘The Pumpkin Zee Bridge’ and travel over it to the rest of the displays which include pumpkin jack in the boxes, a pumpkin ferris wheel and a pumpkin tunnel.
The Pumpkin Zee Bridge and Spider Web at the Pumpkin Blaze.
Through out the display, I walked the path by myself to see pumpkin skeletons, the pumpkin version of the headless horseman, spiders, dinosaurs and a pumpkin circus train. This lead to the main house, the Van Cortlandt Manor, where there were pumpkin scarecrows, a pumpkin cemetery and a light show at the manor that was ablaze with lit pumpkins. The whole effect was engaging.
I doubled back around the cemetery and walked through the sea of pumpkins smiling and grinning at me. The music continued to play as I doubled back through the display but by this time the crowds started to thin and it got colder. When I reached the gift shop it was about 38 degrees I heard someone say. I looked back at the dark lawn with the music still moaning and thought about the amount of work to make this spectacular display every year.
My last event of the holiday was work as a marshal for the Halloween Parade in New York City. I have been working as a marshal for five years now starting in 2014. My job is the least glamorous part of the parade. I work the performance gate where all the performers enter the parade route to their floats. It is also one of the tougher jobs of the parade as I have to make sure all the people who don’t belong in the parade stay out.
It has gotten easier since the passes are now on cell phones or the performers print them out. They know that they have to bring it to the parade. What I love are all the people who try to wheedle their way in to see the parade at its starting point. I have watched people say that they lived there, were staying at the hotel near by, they have dinner plans across the street, they are meeting someone there or try to sneak in with the groups of performers, After five years, I have gotten wise to everyone. The only problem I have is that I work with people who just let people in because they don’t want to confront people. I just tell them “and the cow jumped over the moon!” when they give me a lame answer.
This year I had a pretty good track record of keeping people out with new volunteers who followed the rules. It is fun watching the parade come to life. I have watched hundreds of volunteers come through the parade entrance in costume and with instruments in hand who volunteer to make the magic of the parade.
After we got everyone in the parade route, we closed the gate for the night and the NYPD protected it. I got to go into the parade route and by Broome Street got to watch the parade come together with a combination of floats, performing acts and costumed participants progress up the Avenue. By the time I got to the parade starting point most of the parade was already over and had proceeded uptown. I got to see the last of the floats and bands head uptown.
The robot themed puppets in the parade.
By 9:00pm, the last float headed uptown with a group of Mardi Gras drag queens yelling and screaming over disco music. The rest of the people in the parade were the costumed participants from all over the world who were thrilled to be in the parade. We left yelling and cheering as they entered the parade route.
There were many creative costumes in the parade. You had your usual cartoon characters, police, fire fighters, superheros and witches and devils. There was not much politics as I had seen in the last two years though there were a few Donald Trump masks. Maybe because I was seeing the end of the parade head up town, it looked to me like people were there to have fun and march in the parade less the politics. I did see some unusual and creative costumes such as geometric angels, elaborate dress costumes and show outfits. There still is a lot of creativity left in the population and they like to show it off one night of the year.
To end Halloween, we all met at Tipsy Parson on 156 9th Avenue for a parade rap up party. It was a nice way to end the evening meeting with all the parade marshals and volunteers. They had a nice meal for us as they did the year before with pulled pork sliders, spiced chicken wings, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chips and dip and assorted desserts. Everyone was starved by the time we got there at 9:30pm and made multiple trips to the buffet.
It was nice to sit back and laugh with everyone. My distant cousin, Mark Schuyler and I got to kid around through the evening about some of the stories we heard about people trying to sneak into the parade lineup. We have been swapping these stories now for five years ( I can’t believe it was that long) and still through the back of my mind I thought “We are here again? A year has gone by this quickly? Where did it all go?”
Through the laughing I realized that time has gone by pretty quickly and Christmas was right around the corner. As another Halloween drew to a close, I look back on this Halloween and realize that you can have fun without dressing up and Trick or Treating. You just have to see where life takes you and the experiences in front of you.
Halloween again?! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. Ever since July 4th, it has just accelerated again. I have never seen time fly so fast. Every year the same thing, once the July 4th weekend is over, you blink your eye and there is Christmas again.
I have never been a great fan of Halloween when growing up. I must have been the only kid who hated trick or treating (like begging) and dressing up for elementary school parades (I thought that they were stupid and a waste of time). It was not until I became an adult and got to celebrate in non-conventional terms that it became fun for me. I always liked the occult side of it and look at it from the way the early Celts did with a ceremonial celebration. This is why I participated in more unusual events.
In researching many of our historical sites and museums in Bergen County, New Jersey where I live, I came across many events that the museums were sponsoring leading up to Halloween. I was impressed by the uniqueness of the events and the response to them. I was lucky to get in because everything sold out so quickly. All of these events lead to the big one, the Halloween parade Halloween night.
Halloween starts for me in Hasbrouck Heights with the town’s Annual Halloween in the Park, an event that takes place each fall in Woodland Park in Hasbrouck Heights. First thing to note that since developers have built new condos on the parks edges, it has taken some of the allure from the park. You can see the lights and people moving around.
The DPW takes families around the park in hayride fashion with bales of hay in the trailers and everyone on the trailer is chased and harassed by various ghosts, ghouls and witches. You spend most of the evening being chased with someone with a knife or chainsaw. This popular event is always sold out and residents get such a kick out of it. I of course was working that night and got there in time for the last two rides and people were still screaming at 9:30pm.
Halloween in the Park in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ in Woodland Park
I started the next part of the Halloween celebration at The Schoolhouse Museum (see VisitingaMuseum@wordpress.com for more details and review on TripAdvisor) 650 East Glen Avenue in Ridgewood, New Jersey for the Annual Cemetery Walk on October 20th. Usually I am not keen on walking around cemeteries at night but this was a unique fundraiser for the museum. In fact, for a small museum there was a sold out attendance with more people wanting to go on the tour. The museum ran the walk around the cemetery for only one night and all the walks were packed with families with a surprising number of small children who seemed to love the idea of walking around tombstones.
My tour was the last one of the evening and it was already getting dark by 6:00pm and I was on the 7:00pm tour. The staff at The Schoolhouse Museum could not have been nicer and the volunteers both there and at the cemetery could have been more engaging with the crowds. We started our tour with a ghostly talk in front of the museum by Ridgewood Historian, Joseph Suplicki, who gave a quick tour on the well-known residents of Ridgewood who were buried in the cemetery.
We proceeded as a group (which had ballooned from 20 people to 36 people as more people showed up then there were places so they came on our tour) walked in the dark across the street to the Valleau Cemetery, which is between East Glen Avenue and Franklin Turnpike, one of the original Colonial roads in Ridgewood. We all thought we would be walking in the Dutch Reformed Church cemetery next to the museum but they later told us that there were insurance problems with doing that.
Off our troop trekked across the street to a lantern flank paths through the cemetery to well-known residents of Ridgewood’s burial sites. It was interesting as many of the local residents who were business people that schools and buildings were named after were pointed out. What the interesting twist was to it was they had students and members portray the person buried there and did a bio on the person and their contribution to the town.
The Cemetery Tour
I have to say that I give many of the actors credit for playing the roles they did because that meant staying by the grave site until the event ended and that meant being along for about twenty to thirty minutes by a tombstone. I would have thought it was creepy. Our group followed the lanterns on the paths deeper into the cemetery to hear all sorts of stories.
We visited the graves of various movers and shakers in the town of Ridgewood over the last hundred or so years including many who had streets and schools named after them. The most interesting actor was the lady who portrayed Mary Elizabeth Rosencrantz, who was the last owner of The Hermitage (The Hermitage Museum that is located up Franklin Turnpike from the cemetery), who was left penniless in the end while the house crumbled around her in the 1970’s. The actor told the story of her prominent family and the demise of the family fortune. Having visited The Hermitage in the past, it made it more interesting to see where she was buried.
The tour of the cemetery ended in front of The Schoolhouse Museum where we joined the staff for ghost stories and fresh apple cider and apple cider doughnuts that had been donated by Demarest Farms in Hillsdale (See TripAdvisor review). That was the best and people so happy for snack after the tour.
The School House Museum in Ridgewood, NJ
This interesting and engaging tour is offered by The Schoolhouse Museum in the middle of October and should not be missed. For the $10.00 donation for the tour, it is well worth the visit. On the weekends, check out their current exhibitors. The museum mounts wonderful shows. The museum is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1:00pm to 3:00pm and Sundays from 2:00pm-4:00pm.
Another interesting Halloween event I attended was The Hermitage House Museum’s Annual Midnight Tour and Séance on October 30th. The Hermitage House Museum at 335 North Franklin Turnpike in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ is featured on my blog, ‘VisitingaMuseum@wordpress.com’ and I have visited the museum several times during the year (See review on TripAdvisor). The house was the home of Theodosia Prevost and her second husband, Aaron Burr, when they married in 1782.
The Hermitage Mansion at Halloween
The evening featured a 10:00am ‘ghost tour’ of the house and a séance at midnight to start Halloween day. Frankly, I thought the thing was over-hyped. I have toured the house twice and have never seen or felt anything but hospitality in the house. I arrived at The Hermitage House Museum at 10:00pm on the dot after I gave my Midterm to my class (I am currently teaching business students at Bergen Community College), so I was already tired. Listening to someone including the tour guide, who was a medium, talk about a house being haunted made me a little skeptical since the price for the event was $50.00.
Taking a night tour in a creepy old house was interesting and the Hermitage is steeped in so much history that I seriously suggest taking the tour in daylight and enjoy the grounds. The families that have lived here bring so much to the story of the house. The original owner of the house had invited General George Washington to stay at the house in response to the fact that her husband was fighting on the side of the British and she did not want to loose her home. Marrying Aaron Burr helped as well.
The next family that owned the house expanded it and lived in it for almost a 100 years. It became the modern New Jersey version of ‘Grey Gardens’, when the last owner ran out of money to run the house and the whole place overgrew. She ended up sick and when she died she left the house to the State of New Jersey.
With a history like that, you would think that you really might see something. All I saw was an over-weight bullshit artist who worked everyone up. I admit I would not like to spend a night alone in an old house like this but he got everyone so worked up that I believe that people thought they were seeing things. It got to the point where he kept asking everyone if they felt a cold spot or did they see a shadow. The house was old and drafty, that’s it. I got a kick out of one women saying she saw a rocking chair moving by itself and then another women walk by it and the loose floor board moving it. She looked embarrassed.
The worst was when we entered the parlor where Mary Rosencrantz, the last owner of the house, along with her sister and aunt used to serve tea during the 20’s to raise money to keep the house up. We all sat around the room in a semi-circle trying to communicate with the dead. All he did was rattle off a bunch of names and types of people he felt might be in the room. He was called out when he said someone named “Rose” was trying to reach him and then asked us did anyone know a ‘Rose’. When one guy said he did and it was the name of his 93 year old grandmother, the medium practically swooned and asked when she died. He answered that she was alive and living down the street from him. That almost crushed the medium.
For the price of the event and the time of night it is at my suggestion to anyone wanting to visit The Hermitage Museum is to visit it during the day and take a formal tour with a docent for $7.00 and enjoy the house for its history and beauty.
The highlight of Halloween for me is volunteering for the Halloween Parade in NYC. That is a lot of fun and its a comradery builder working with all the other volunteers. This was fourth year working on the parade and I am assigned working the gate where all the volunteers and performers walk through to check in. I have never seen so many people try to bullshit their way into the parade. They just want to see the parade from our route. I have to turn angry people away every year and do they get nasty. Is it my fault there is a major parade going on and you can’t get to a party three blocks away?
The Halloween Parade took even a weirder twist when we had a terrorist attack just a few blocks from the parade route. Some guy took a truck and ran down joggers and bikers on the park path a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. I was shocked when one of the guys from the FDNY pulled me aside at 5:30pm to tell me. Even though it had happened a few blocks from the parade nothing beats down a New Yorker. They show resilience and the parade continued as if nothing happened. Like myself, if no one had said anything I would not have known.
The Halloween Parade
The parade route was mobbed with people and I have to say that the costumes are getting more creative every year especially this year. There were a lot of ‘Dump Trump’ signs all over the parade route including many people dressed like the President doing all sorts of strange things. (I have to admit I may not agree with all the things he says but he is still our President and should be respected.)
There were all sorts of political undertones to the parade as there always are such as the Gun Lobbying Zombie’s, The ‘Dump Trump’ characters, all the LGBT groups fighting over the problems they are having in the military and comments over the immigration policies. I have not seen this much political rhetoric since the ‘I am peach Bush’ costumes that I saw about nine years ago. People were saying their piece this year.
I have also seen a bump in foreign tourists as they kept asking where things were located and did not know where Canal Street was located. Some said they came to New York City just to see the parade. I was floored by how many families brought their children all the way to the U.S. to see the parade. It was an exciting site to see all the bands, unusual costumes and towering puppets. There were skeletons and serpents on the parade route. The puppet makers go above and beyond when it comes time for the parade. The dancing Pumpkin people were new to the parade added that air of creativity to the event.
I usually end up watching the full parade on YouTube but I get to see the parade from the ground up. By working the gate, I get to see all the people in costume coming into the route. Ever since the 20th Anniversary of the ‘Thriller’ album, the ‘Thriller’ dance routine has gotten bigger and I swear they get so into it. We have dancing zombies all over the place. I see so many bands going through the gate and everyone comes in at once. I swear the three of us saw so much that night.
The Thriller Dance:
So here is my Halloween experience this year. Full of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night. BOO!
(For those of you who are reading this and want to be in the parade next year, please go to Canal Street to line up. Don’t come to the gate and drive us crazy. We are busy enough.) Use the Number 6 subway to get to the parade route.
The Halloween Events:
Halloween in the Park
Every second week of October in Hasbrouck Heights NJ
Check out the Hasbrouck Heights Recreation Department Website
The Halloween Parade is every October 31st in New York City lining Sixth Avenue
(The picture is of the three of us working the gate. Mark Schuyler and I are twelve cousins once removed by the marriage of Mark’s GGG Grandfather to my GGG Grandmother, who was a member of the Beekman family by my Step-Grandmother. We like to kid around a lot about it.)
To all of my readers and fellow bloggers following my blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. I created two more blog sites to accompany the main site.
I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ to take what I have discovered on the walk around the city and put it into more detail.
I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ to feature all the small and medium museums, pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that I have found along the way in my walking the streets of the island and in the outlining areas of Manhattan. There are loads of sites you can easily miss either by not visiting the neighborhoods by foot or not consulting a guidebook. Most of the these places are not visited by most residents of the City and should not be missed.
I never realized how many small museums exist in New York City, let alone the outer boroughs and in New Jersey. I have discovered so many wonderful and interesting artifacts in these museums that not only have so much historical value but they also deal with local history.
Gallery Bergen at Bergen Community College
There are so many pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that you would miss if you did not walk the neighborhoods. What has also been fascinating about it is the people you meet along the way that volunteer in these facilities. There is so much pride to be had by these local residents dedicating their time to make these places successful.
‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ is my latest site:
I am featuring and promoting wonderful local restaurants that I have found along the way when doing the walk as well as places I have recently visited outside the city for $10.00 and below. I am not just featuring them for their price but for the quality of the food, the selection and the portion size.
Delicious Dumplings at ‘Dumplings’ on Henry Street
These little ‘hole in the wall’ dining establishments offer a good meal at a fair price as well as supporting the local economy. I have a very limited budget for meals and thought this blog site would help all of you economize when touring New York City and the outlying regions. I cross reference my reviews on TripAdvisor.com.
For anyone thinking of doing a similar project like ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, I want to let you know how expensive it is to do. I have to pay not just for bus tickets, subway passes, meals, donations to museums and historical sites but the general wear and tear on my clothes. I am on my third pair of sneakers due to this walk. This is why you need to set a budget for it:
Please check out my fire fighting blog sites, ‘The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association’, ‘tbcfma.Wordpress.com’, where I am blogging about the activities of the association that I am volunteering for at the home on a quarterly basis and the support that the organization gives to The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey. Firemen for all over Bergen County, where I live, volunteer their time up at the nursing home with activities to engage and cheer up our fellow fire fighters.
The second site about fire fighting I blog about is ‘The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department”, ‘EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartmentNJ.Wordpress.com’, where I blog about the activities of Engine Company One, in which I am a member, as part of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. We do a lot of volunteer work for the department and many of our members are very active and hold a lot of positions on the department.
The Brothers of Engine One HHFD (site now closed-Blogs moved to section of MywalkinManhattan.com called “My life as a Fireman”):
The most frequented of my blogs is “BergenCountyCaregiver.com’, a caregivers blog site to help adult caregivers take care of their loved ones. This helps caregivers navigate a very broken system and put all sorts of programs that might help them all in one place to read and chose what might help them. This deals with county, state and federal programs that most social workers miss because there are so many of them that don’t get a lot of attention. It is by far the most popular site.
The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association
I wanted to share these with my readers and thank you for following my main blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. Please also share this with your friends who are visiting New York City to really tour the city by foot and see it for its own beauty and uniqueness.