As the warmer weather subsides and leaves begin to fall, a new season is ushered into view. Fall is here at last! And with the arrival of fall comes all of the delights of the season, like haunted houses and trails, pumpkin patches, apple picking and corn mazes (oh, and plenty of sweet treats like caramel apples and apple cider).
While many of fall’s biggest festivals have been canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, traditions like haunted attractions and corn mazes are still on, with some modifications of course.
Land of Illusion’s Haunted Scream Park, featuring a number of haunted houses, trails and terrors, opened to the public last weekend, with more haunts to follow in the coming weeks. The Lewisburg Haunted Cave has canceled its season.
So, how are organizers making it work while keeping customers safe and following all mandated regulations? We talked to organizers of some of the most beloved fall attractions in the area to get a clear picture of what fall festivities will look like this year.
Haunted houses and spooky attractions
Unlike other fall activities, many spooky attractions taking place indoors — meaning that social distancing and other coronavirus-related protocols are a bit harder to enact. Despite these setbacks, many haunted houses and other spooky attractions are still gearing up to welcome guests this season.
One of these spooky attractions is the Riverside Jaycees Haunted Castle of Carnage & Trail. The Riverside Jaycees are a nonprofit group that has created this haunted house and trail to raise money to give back to the community by helping young adults gain leadership skills.
The Riverside Jaycees have had to implement several safety procedures. The most impactful of these procedures might turn out to be their new social distancing practice, which mandates that guests may only enter the Haunted Castle of Carnage and Trail with the people from your group. Inevitably, this means that it may take longer to get through the long line of people waiting to get into the attraction. Despite these longer wait times, Julie Denning of the Riverside Jaycees asks that customers remain patient.
“The main thing for us is we’re just gonna ask people to be patient since it may take a little longer because we are going to be doing the 6-foot system,” Denning said. “We’re going to be sanitizing every hour, and we know that’s going to take time.”
During hours of operation, volunteers with the nonprofit will be sanitizing all of the surfaces in the Haunted Castle of Carnage with a flame-retardant cleaner. In order to make this process easier and more sanitary, volunteers had to also remove all of the carpeting from the haunted house.
Along with all of the additional time that it took to prepare the haunted house for guests, Denning also pointed out that these new procedures cost the nonprofit more to execute.
“The big thing is, our costumes were normally taken somewhere to be dropped off and washed, maybe twice a season,” said Denning. “Now, it will be every week. That’s another huge expense.”
Credit: Riverside Jaycees
Credit: Riverside Jaycees
The Riverside Jaycees will also be implementing the following procedures at their Haunted Castle of Carnage & Trail:
- Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the attraction
- Actors and customers are required to wear face masks
- Upon entering the attraction, customers will be asked typical COVID-related screening questions
- Only 10 people are permitted to be in the Haunted Castle of Carnage at one time
Apart from all of the expensive and time-consuming policies that occurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Denning notes the importance of the mission of the nonprofit and its haunted attraction.
“Since it’s a nonprofit, we have more barriers and we have to be very cautious with our funds because our haunted house is our primary fundraiser for the Riverside Jaycees,” said Denning. “And that fundraiser helps to fund a huge shopping trip during the holiday season for families in need. It funds an Easter egg hunt, it funds dinners for senior citizens and so much more. We can only do these things if we have the funding. So, that’s the reason it’s so important for our doors to open and for us to have a really good season.”
Brimstone Haunt, a haunted institution offering a haunted house, trail, hayride and other attractions in Wilmington, is instituting similar practices.
“We are promoting a ‘scarily safe zone’ this season, and have implemented changes for COVID-19,” said Cheryl Bucholtz, the marketing director for Brimstone Haunt.
These COVID-related changes to Brimstone Haunt are as follows:
- All actors and customers will be required to wear a face mask
- Actors will no longer be “scaring” customers within a range of 6 feet. They will now be scaring customers from a distance
- Adding animatronics where an actor can no longer be
- The queue line to get into the haunted attractions will be socially-distanced
Another favorite fall tradition is the corn maze, offering rows upon rows of family fun. And, fortunately, due to the logistics of the typical corn maze (most are outdoors and socially distanced), many area corn mazes are hoping to thrive despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Young’s Jersey Dairy’s Cowvin’s Corny Maze is currently open to the public. Stretching over an expanse of nearly 3.5 acres of corn, the maze is an intermediate challenge designed for the entire family.
Apart from their corn maze, Young’s Jersey Dairy also hosts a number of other fall-related events and activities, like the Haunted Wagon Rides and Fall Farm Pumpkin Festival. Dan Young, the CEO of Young’s Jersey Dairy, said it was not possible to hold the haunted wagon rides and pumpkin festival this year, simply due to the fact that social distancing precautions were not going to be possible during the events.
“From a safety standpoint, we noodled around for a couple of months trying to think about how we can do this thing,” Young said. “We just decided that it was best for just this year to skip it. We’ve been holding these events for around 25 years, but we could not imagine a way to do that in a safe manner.”
Other Young’s activities including mini-golf, batting cages and petting barn remain open as well as the dairy store.
While on the farm or navigating your way through the corn maze, the following coronavirus-related procedures should be followed:
- Customers and employees are required to wear masks
- Hand sanitizer will be available for customers
- Wagon rides to the corn maze will be at half-capacity and will be equipped with dividers and sanitized after every ride
- Social distancing will be reinforced with signage
Another challenge that makes it nearly impossible for the dairy farm to operate in its normal capacity this season is the ongoing work on the brand new Dairy Store, set to replace the original store built in 1968. Inevitably, this construction would interfere with normal operations of events at Young’s Jersey Dairy.
Credit: Apple Country Farm Market
Credit: Apple Country Farm Market
For those up for a more difficult challenge, Apple Country Farm Market’s corn maze is likely to hit the mark.
Opening to the public this weekend, Apple Country Farm Market’s “Thanks to Our Heroes” corn maze features seven miles of challenging paths that can take visitors up to two hours to complete.
Though the pandemic may have posed a few challenges to the team at Apple Country Farm Market in Spring Valley, Marcie Hagler, one of the owners of the farm, pointed out that this year’s maze has received more attention from the public than any of their previous corn mazes over the past two decades.
“This year truly was the best maze we’ve ever had, and I’m not talking from the design standpoint,” said Hagler. “I’m talking about the maize itself and how well it grew. And that was the other part that kind of played into it. It’s like, we’ve had the best days we’ve ever had, we’ve got to do this.”
This year’s corn maze pays tribute to the medical workers, police officers and other emergency personnel who have served on the frontlines of the coronavirus. And, despite its difficulty, the maze will still have checkpoints, a crime scene investigation game and an easier maze in the center of the large maze for the younger crowd to navigate.
"It’s been interesting because we’ve gotten texts from people from medical care units that have flown over our farm and has seen that design and they’re like, ‘thank you, thank you!’, said Hagler. “So, we did get a little bit of mileage out of it before opening.”
Though their corn maze and accompanying farm market will open this year, Apple Country Farm Market also hosts a number of other seasonal events, like bonfires and hayrides, that will not be taking place this year due to an inability to socially distance.
“We’ve changed a lot of things to adhere to coronavirus standards,” Hagler said. There are a lot of components of our fall activities that we are not doing because we felt like we could not do those appropriately and adhere to the standards that we need to adhere to, like the hayride. So, we are opening the maze, the Farm Market, the pumpkin patch and other things like that."
Apple Country Farm Market is limiting the number of people who can purchase tickets to enter the corn maze each day to control the number of people entering and exiting the maze. Further, all ticket sales will be done online or over the phone in order to reduce contact between individuals. High-touch areas of the farm will be regularly sanitized and hand sanitizer will be readily available for customers to use. And, just like in every other public place in the state of Ohio, customers are required to masks and to social distance while on the premises.
Pro tip: After your long journey through the corn maze, be sure to stop by the farm market for their famous apple cider slushie.
ABOUT THE ATTRACTIONS
Interested in visiting any of the attractions featured in this article? Here’s what to know:
The Riverside Jaycees Haunted Castle of Carnage & Trail is located at 1213 Old Harshman Road in Riverside and is operating this year from Sept. 25 through Oct. 31 on every Friday and Saturday from 8-10 p.m. and Sunday from 8-9:30 p.m. To learn more about the haunted house and trail, visit their website or Facebook page.
Brimstone Haunt, located at 472 Brimstone Road in Wilmington, will be open for the 2020 season from Sept. 25 through Oct. 31 from 7-11:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. To learn more about Brimstone Haunt, head to their website or Facebook page.
Young’s Jersey Dairy is located at 6880 Springfield Xenia Road in Yellow Springs. Cowvin’s Corny Maze will be open to the public through Oct. 25 on Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information about Young’s Jersey Dairy, visit their website or Facebook page.
Apple Country Farm Market is located at 2323 US-42 in Spring Valley. The corn maze will be open to the public from Sept. 19 through Nov. 1 on every Friday from 4-8 p.m., Saturday from 1-8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. To learn more about the Apple Country Farm Market, visit their website or Facebook page.