Could Halloween be more scary than 2020 itself?
COVID-19 and ensuing government restrictions are scary, but the people who cause frights intentionally are preparing for the fun associated with Halloween.
Some haunted houses, mazes and pumpkin patches will be open — with masks required and socially distancing — and some folks will try to be creative for trick or treating. What about a long tube delivering candy from candy giver to candy taker?
But one of the most ambitious attractions will be the new Oaks Park Haunted Drive-Thru at Oaks Amusement Park.
Vendetta Productions, the folks who put on the haunted house at Clark County Fairgrounds in Southwest Washington for many years, has moved its Halloween operation to the Portland amusement park at 7805 S.E. Oaks Park Way.
It'll include five different haunts, each with a theme — "The Condemned," featuring cannibals; "Night Terrors," which includes scary clowns; "Site 13," a lab experiment gone wrong; an insane asylum; and a classic haunted manor. Actors will play characters in a storytelling experience with special effects, while visitors sit in their cars with a Bluetooth device (cleaned and sterilized) mounted inside providing the audio.
It opens Friday, Oct. 9, and wraps up Nov. 1. Tickets are $70-$80 per vehicle, and must be purchased in advance. For info: www.scaregroundspdx.com.
"It's our first year doing anything like this," said Jason Greeley-Roberts of Vendetta Productions. "We've been doing haunted houses and Halloween events for 15-16 years, usually doing conventional walk-through haunted houses.
"With COVID-19 happening, it forced us to go back to our theater roots and be more like a theatrical performance with complete scripts, fully automated, everything prerecorded, and lights and animatronics. You drive into the scene, park there for five or six minutes, and then drive to the next scene. There'll be three scenes in each (theme), five or six minutes each."
Yes, the scary characters will be wearing masks (including for safety purposes) and car windows need to stay closed — so, they can't get you.
"It's been a fun exercise," Greeley-Roberts said. "The trouble with doing haunted houses or any type of performance art, you fall into the trap of doing the same old gags.
"It's going to be a mix, spooky and creepy, some startle scares, but you're within the safety of vehicle. You'll have that element of protection. People who are nervous and scared will have fun, but feel safe. But people who like the intensity of a haunted house will get the fear element they're looking for."
• Some traditional haunted houses will be open.
One of them is The Fear PDX, which will incorporate a timed ticketing system for half-hour tours. Visitors will walk through in a single file line, creating social distancing.
It's open through Nov. 1 at 12301 N.E. Glisan St. For tickets ($30-$58): www.fearpdx.com.
• Scores of pumpkin patches are open, including the aptly named The Pumpkin Patch at 16511 N.W. Gillihan Road on Sauvie Island.
It's open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through October. For more: www.thepumpkinpatch.com.
Obviously, there are few better places to be socially distant than a big field with pumpkins.
"Business has been great," said Jade Egger, The Pumpkin Patch manager. "Most of our customers have been compliant (with rules) and happy to escape to our farm. We believe families love our farm as a destination to 'escape' from the pandemic and have a little taste of normalcy.
"We have 144 acres and plenty of room for customers to safely enjoy themselves, whether it's out at the pumpkin patch, in the corn maze or simply enjoying the fair food on the premises. For the most part, we have decided to keep things as normal as possible for our customers."
Some kids' attractions have been shelved, including the cow train, hay maze and hay pyramid.
• The Pumpkin Patch's adjoining attraction, the Maize at The Pumpkin Patch, also has been busy.
"People look at it as a nice, safe outdoor place to go," said Craig Easterly, Maize owner. "You can tell they want to be out and about. We're requiring masks to enter the maze, we're doing everything the state recommends to do, including social distancing. You buy tickets ahead of time. I think we'll have a normal season at this point."
Easterly said paths have been widened by about 30% to accommodate visitors. "You can pass without running into each other," Easterly added.
For more: portlandmaize.com.
• Unfortunately, there have been some attractions and events canceled, including the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin and Davis Graveyard in Milwaukie, which has moved some elements to the Scare Fair in Canby.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.