Two-day Haunted Hayride requires lengthy planning process
October 31, 2013
While the spookiness of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate's Haunted Hayride is described as "not for the faint at heart," few FMWR patrons realize the entire production is not for the "undedicated and unmotivated." This year's Haunted Hayride took place Oct. 25 and Saturday at Wren Arena, but few attendees might know that two nights of Halloween fun require over a month's worth of planning.
According to Stacy Sandlin, FMWR commercial sponsorship coordinator, most people do not realize what goes into creating the final product.
"I have to say this is one of the largest events as far as the [amount of] work involved to carry it off [successfully]. We start planning well in advance and the [actual] event, from set-up to tear down, takes us seven days," Sandlin said.
Along with FMWR personnel, much of the Haunted Hayride is carried out by volunteers --.Soldiers, civilians, Family members and the off-post community. Nine units, Buffalo Corral, The Fort Huachuca Post Exchange and volunteers from Best Buy in Sierra Vista produced the scenes of the Haunted Hayride trail, while Buena High School students assisted with the haunted house.
"We have a lot more units participating this year; we usually have about nine. We had 12 this time," said James Thomas, FMWR special events coordinator. "We had a lot of participation for the haunted house this time. It just gets better and better every year."
The 6th annual event consisted of a children's activity area, a jumbo movie screen showing movies throughout the night, a haunted house and the main attraction, the hayride. FMWR began working with hayride scene volunteers Sept. 11.
Scene coordinators attended meetings, went on a tour of the hayride route to pick an assigned area, ensured a scary but appropriate theme, recruited volunteers and spearheaded the setup and breakdown of the scene. Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Hammons, Company B, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, was one of the scene organizers this year; it was also his first Haunted Hayride event.
The theme of Hammons' scene was a haunted graveyard; however, it included more aspects than just gravestones. Two volunteers dressed as "stilt monsters" provided one of the main visuals. Hammons made the costumes himself.
Two volunteer U.S. Air Force students wore the costumes which included stilts for standing and walking and crutches to hold on to for balance. Once in the costume, the Airmen presented the visual of a tall, four-legged, hump-backed creature. Due to visual challenges of wearing a mask, each stilt monster was provided with a guide, dressed as a grim reaper.
Hammons explained that walking in the costume takes time to get used to. Airmen 1st Class Elrik Olson and Aaron Borner, U.S. Air Force, both agreed as they walked around portraying the spooky creatures. They said the role's most difficult part was walking downhill in the costume where the ground sloped.
Being in charge of the scene, Hammons described the project as "challenging." He estimated he spent between 70 and 75 hours working on scene production. That time included making costumes, shopping with FMWR personnel for props and other scenery necessities, and working with the layout and setup of the designated area. During hayride attendees' tours through the graveyard, Hammons operated the lighting and sound system.
While scene construction and preparation took up a majority of the week, once it was show time, only one thing mattered to all the volunteers -- scaring Haunted Hayride participants.
"I have to say, this is one of my favorite Family and MWR events," Sandlin said. "When a child comes up to you and says they did not like the hayride [because] it was too scary, but they have a huge smile on their face, that makes it all worth it."
Around 2,000 visitors frequented Wren Arena during each of the event's two nights. For those brave enough to board the Haunted Hayride, votes were taken at the end for the scariest scene. This year's winner was the 2-13th Aviation Regiment's scene with its "Freak Show" theme which then transformed into a Halloween version of the "Harlem Shake."