West Hartford’s Wolcott Elementary School will hold a ‘Haunted Forest’ event on Saturday, Oct. 23.
By Sean Burns
After a year off, the spooks, ghosts, and goblins are making their way back to the Wolcott woods.
Wolcott’s Haunted Forest is back, set to transform the woods between Wolcott Elementary School and Wolcott Park into a frightening family spectacle on Saturday, Oct. 23. The event, which is open to all in the community who love a good scare, runs from 5-8 p.m.
A popular annual fundraising event for the Wolcott Parent-Teacher Organization, Haunted Forest was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so hopes are that its return will be bigger than ever. Tickets are $8 per person, with all proceeds going towards future PTO events and programs. The Haunted Forest will mark the first after-school PTO event that has been held since March 2020.
“Wolcott is all about community,” says Wolcott principal Scott Dunn, who worked together with PTO planners to get the event’s return approved for 2021. “We are thrilled to bring our families together to connect at one of our most beloved traditions here.”
For nearly a decade, the Haunted Forest has been transforming the trails adjoining the elementary school campus into a series of haunted vignettes put together by volunteers. Plans are to have as many as 16 different “scenes” in the woods, with themes decided upon by the groups of families and friends that put them on.
Prior year scenes have included a who’s who of Halloween favorites – from spooky graveyard scares to demented doctors to vampires and other monsters of lore. Even organizers really know what to expect until the day of the event, so the walk through the paths of the Haunted Forest is full of surprises for all who make the trek.
For families with younger children, the first hour (from 5-6 p.m.) is designated as a less frightening affair, designed to allow everyone to enjoy the scenes, even if they’d rather not get scared while doing so. The dials get adjusted as the sun goes down, with the final two hours (from 6-8 p.m.) set to full throttle on the spooky fun.
“This is an event that has been a favorite of the Wolcott community for a number of years, and has been so memorable in the past,” says Mary Lestini, vice president of Events and Committees for Wolcott PTO. “Offering social and fun events like these are such an important part of supporting the emotional wellbeing of our students and families, and we’re so glad to be able to do it again after having to take last year off.”
Beyond the Haunted Forest walk, the event will feature a chance for families and friends to socialize in the field outside the entrance to the forest, where refreshments including cider, hot chocolate, popcorn, and other assorted goodies will be available for purchase. The nexus will be on the north side of the Wolcott School campus, which is located at 71 Wolcott Rd. Parking is available at the school itself, as well as on the surrounding streets.
With hundreds of students and families expected, the event requires an enormous effort on the part of PTO volunteers, who begin the onsite preparations more than a week out to ensure that things are ready for the scenes to be set up on the 23rd. From setup to ticket sales to teachers serving as “ghostbusters” that guide families through the woods from scene to scene, the event is expected to involve nearly 100 volunteers for smooth operation.
“Haunted Forest requires a lot of help to put together, from families volunteering to put together the scenes themselves, to teachers volunteering their time on a Saturday night to participate, to folks helping clean up the forest both before and after the event itself,” says Brooks Fischer, who is chair of the event committee for a third time this fall. “Once again, we’ve got a great group of people coming together to put on a great event for the families in the community.”
The event is open to all who would like to attend, whether they are a part of the Wolcott community or just a fan of the spooky season. For more information, visit the event page on the Wolcott PTO website at WolcottPTO.org.
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