Garner: Community

Garner’s Halloween traditions continue to grow

Delaney Craft runs around in the field at White Deer Park with her father Ed (out of frame) at Garner’s second annual Trick-or-Treat the Trails.
Delaney Craft runs around in the field at White Deer Park with her father Ed (out of frame) at Garner’s second annual Trick-or-Treat the Trails.

This town continued Halloween traditions in multiple locations on Oct. 31, with town trails and a haunted neighborhood forest among the centers for the spook-centric holiday.

At White Deer Park, the town hosted the second annual Trick or Treat the Trails, which drew even more people than the popular inaugural edition. The town’s outdoor programming manager Stephanie Shaffer said an estimated 6,000 parents and costumed children attended the event, up from around 4,500 in 2012.

“It’s certainly well-received in the community,” Shaffer said. “I think it’s safe to say we are going to do it again next year.”

Forty-three partnering organizations set up shop along the greenway in White Deer Park, offering candy to children of various ages – and even some dressed-up adults. Business cards were handed out along with the candy. While businesses increased their visibility, parents appreciated the family-friendly environment for trick-or-treating as the park became a spectacle of vampires, comic book heroes, princesses and demons.

“(We liked) the friendly, family atmosphere,” said Antaine Jones, who said he and his family had just moved to Garner from Fayetteville. “We’re family oriented-type people and it’s something safe.”

He brought his son Zephaniah, who was dressed as the Green Lantern and his wife Shamara, who also appreciated the chance to get to know the local businesses.

“We liked being able to see what was in the community,” Shamara said.

Vendors from martial arts studios to a iPhone/iPad game developer to Chick-Fil-A had presences and offered, as one vendor said to costumed children, “no trick, just treats.” Kevin Register of Weekends Off Landscaping in Cary said the event blew away his expectations.

“This has been incredible; this has been a great promotional opportunity,” said Register after happily handing a fistful of candy to Peter Pan.

Haunted Forest

Another tradition, this one in its fourth year, carried on a little bit later (after dark) and a little bit further south in the Turner Farms neighborhood.

Delane Hayes, his next-door neighbor Chuck Riesebeck and some other friends put together a haunted forest in the woods behind their homes. Each year they concoct new additions in an attempt to scare anyone willing to venture into the darkness, and again drew about 200 people, Hayes said.

“It’s not what you would think that side yard. You’d expect something funny maybe even goofy. But it’s legitimately scary ... It’s a real big production,” Hayes said. “People come through, they get scared, they’ll scream, and then they’ll laugh.”

Various lighting elements and five fog machines help the actors in different roles maximize spookiness. This year they added an electric chair, complete with a hooked-up jigsaw underneath that vibrates against metal plates for noise and vibration effects.

The scares are free – if you want them to be. From the start Hayes offered to collect money to donate to a muscular dystrophy charity. Riesebeck’s son Charlie has Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. The event has raised about $300 each year strictly from donations.

Hayes, a physical education teacher at Rolesville Middle School, said he’s always liked Halloween. The event started after he and his father made a coffin to put in his lawn; though he hoped to jump out and scare some trick-or-treaters, only a smattering came by, Riesebeck said.

“He had no children in his neighborhood on Halloween. So he decided to create a haunted forest,” Riesebeck said.

Hayes said he always liked the classic Halloween movies and enjoys the ability of costumes, trick-or-treating and a good scare to bring out the kid even in adults. He also is pleased as many people come as they do, especially with Ken’s Corn Maze hosting Halloween events just up N.C. 50 from the neighborhood. He’s considering expanding to two nights next year, with Halloween on a Friday.

“For the most part it’s the best bet in town; it’s the cheapest thing you can do,” Hayes said. “(For us) it’s a chance to really truly scare people and do it for a good cause.”