The Park at Dark a Halloween hit for children
There is “boo” scary and then there is “horror movie” scary. While many families like to celebrate the fun aspects of Halloween, they don’t want to take their children to events that will scare the living daylights out of them.
Rob Holsinger, deputy director of the Washington County Recreation and Fitness Department, said The Park at Dark answers that call, providing Halloween-themed activities that are tailored for pre-school and elementary school-aged children.
“It’s primarily directed for kids 3 through 12,” Holsinger said. “It’s a family-friendly atmosphere that is meant to be less scary, more fun. It resembles a community fair.”
The Park at Dark will be Friday, Oct. 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center near Boonsboro. Admission is $5 for children ages one through 12, $2 for ages 13 and older, and free for infants younger than one.
The Recreation and Fitness Department looks for ways to provide fun, low-cost activities, and The Park at Dark is just that.
“It’s a spooky Halloween celebration with a kind of trick-or-treat feel to it,” Holsinger said.
The event takes place mostly outdoors with some activities in an indoor barn facility. There will be Halloween-themed music playing as children get temporary tattoos, create sand art, play in inflatable structures and ride scooters.
“We have a roped off area where they ride these plastic scooters. They sit down and they are propelled by rocking handles that go back and forth,” he said.
Washington County Antique Tractor Association will provide barrel car rides.
“It is a community event. We have different people who help out,” Holsinger said.
The Hair Cuttery runs a prize wheel, and kids can participate in a coloring contest.
Another popular attraction is a spooky hayride, at the end of which, each child receives a candy bag.
“We don’t want to compete with trick-or-treating. That’s why we do it earlier in the month, so we can fit it in and it still has a fall and Halloween feel,” Holsinger said. “We also make it suitable for families by giving them time to get home and have dinner before they come, but it doesn’t keep the kids out too late either.”
Parents like that all activities are included in the admission fee, he said.
“There are concessions available for additional cost, but it’s not like you get in there and you have to pay more for this activity and that activity. It’s all included. It’s an enjoyable family activity for a very small fee,” Holsinger said.
Attendees are invited to bring clothes to make a scarecrow. Hay will be provided. Those who don’t bring clothes can build a scarecrow for fun with clothes on hand at the event, but it will be disassembled and stay at the event so that others can participate as well.
The event finale is a parade of costumes. Children display their costumes and medals are awarded as prizes to contest winners.
“The majority of people come dressed up. We’ve had some good ones. Some families get into it with themes,” Holsinger said. “We’ve had siblings who were different ninja turtles. We had a ‘Ghostbuster’ family. We’ve seen Raggedy Ann and Andy. Some people really have a lot of fun with it.”
Holsinger anticipates that 500 to 600 people will attend this year’s event.
“We are planning on around 250 kids ages one to 12,” he said. “With little ones and parents, we’ll have more than 500.”
Event organizers receive positive feedback each year.
“People say it’s a good value for the money. They are happy with the friendly staff and the fun activities, and that it is just a good family environment.”
Tickets must be purchased in advance. There will be no sales at the door. Everyone must have a ticket to enter and children must be supervised at all times.