Tanganyika Wildlife Park is kicking off its after-hours Halloween adventure this weekend with the opening of its annual Pumpkins at the Park.
The family-friendly event offers a variety of activities in an autumn environment where pumpkins and skeletons come to life. Now in its third year, the event has expanded to include a 3-D haunted house and other attractions that organizers hope will bring out more people to enjoy the fall and support the park.
“We wanted to have another family-friendly activity for Halloween,” said Matt Fouts, Tanganyika’s assistant director. “We wanted to create something different. To have a safe place where kids can go and not only trick-or-treat, but also do a bunch of fun activities, is a great thing to do for the community.”
Upon entering the park, visitors will find themselves in the midst of a ghostly, enchanted land with lots of options for entertainment. A story centering on a rivalry of sorts between a giant pumpkin and a ghastly skeleton overarches all that transpires. There’s a 50-foot inflatable haunted house obstacle course, a pumpkin trail with more than a mile of lights and 400 lighted pumpkins and enormous Halloween characters with which to interact. Fifteen candy stations will surround the park to dispense free edibles.
A haunted hay ride in an open field will begin with fun stories but promises a twist with the arrival of mysterious guests. A cage maze offers a labyrinth of scares. An island of intrigue will become the setting for Halloween tale-telling. There’s also a mad scientist mystery show, which will incorporate some of the animals from the park.
The Chamber of Mysteries will offer visitors a chance to warm up indoors with Halloween treats such as candy apples and apple cider. There also will be a movie playing and Creepy Crawler animal ambassadors on hand.
“We have really tried to dress the park up, to theme it up, and create a real atmosphere,” Fouts said. “People are going to be immersed into a true Halloween event.”
The main attraction this year is the new 3-D haunted house. Visitors will feel as though they are running through fields of tall grass, about to descend down gaping holes, and will come face to face with riveting creatures. It was built by Stuart Smith, a 3-D visual artist who has fashioned similar experiences around the world. To construct it, Smith followed the story created for the pumpkin patch this year, bringing to life the characters and events that inspired the design of the park.
“I’ve enjoyed constructing this because I normally do more adult, gruesome haunted houses. But bringing this story to life was a nice change and a fun challenge to take on,” Smith said. “Just trying to keep it tame was a challenge, but this will be an attraction all ages can and will enjoy.”
Fouts said most activities are appropriate for all ages, though some, such as the cage maze, are better suited for older kids and teenagers. Gore and violence aren’t part of any of the attractions.
Pumpkins at the Park is one of three special events each year at Tanganyika. Fouts said attendance was around 3,000 last year, double the number he said the park recorded in 2010 for its first event. He hopes to continue that growth. Proceeds go toward the winter fund, which sustains the operations and animal care throughout the winter when the park can’t be open and revenue from ticket sales isn’t available. Fouts said it takes around $600,000 to keep the animals safely housed during the often severe weather months of winter.
“It’s my hope that more people become aware of what we do here at Tanganyika year-round by coming to this and that more people come out this year to experience this truly unique Halloween event,” he said.