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Experts Prepare Haunted Hayride
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People love to be frightened out of their wits. Halloween is the perfect time. And the shadows of Jacob Myers Park after sundown are as good a place as any.

Now in its sixth year, the Halloween Haunted Hayride staged by the Riverbank Parks & Recreation Department is set for this coming Friday and Saturday, Oct. 23 and 24, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Sit on a straw bale, hold hands with the kids and take a scary ride through the forest past scenes of horror. To be terrified, it will only cost you $6 for adults and $4 for the children.

While the Parks Department is technically in charge, city workers from all departments plus volunteers from throughout town sign up to spend hours devising scenes calculated to make your blood run cold.

" 'Where's Our Daddy' was the scene we had the first year," said Jerry Meyer, whose family has been running a site for at least six years since the idea began. "I had two of my four-year-old grandchildren with a lantern looking for their father. The people in the wagon thought they were for real and were leaning out to help - until my son-in-law jumped out with a chainsaw. That was a good one. We won first prize."

His grandchildren have grown up since then and his site this year will be comparatively tame - a torture chamber scene, he said, noting in some years rain has threatened to cancel the event but the extended weather forecast this time looks good.

Tim Dowdy of the Parks Department is another city worker who has always participated with enthusiasm in the haunted hayride.

"Jerry and I with our families used to do something every year."

The Dowdy family will be less extravagant this year, he said. They will just do "the city cemetery" which is the first scene on the route.

"Seems to me there are fewer scenes this time and less participation," he added.

Scott Pettit with members from his karate school will be taking up the slack. He's promised to make and man half a dozen scare sites.

Pettit wants the scenes so frightening the riders "will leap out of their seats from one side of the wagon to the other."

Visitors who come here every year have their favorite scenes, he said. He knows some who are so keen thy will drive all the way from Los Angeles. "They are as bad as American Coasters Enthusiasts (ACE) who travel all over the country and even abroad to sample the most scary roller coaster rides," Pettit noted.

He has about 20 of his karate kids involved this year. They started putting up the disposable props (the least valuable) in the trees last Monday and will conduct a dress rehearsal on Thursday the night before the show opens.

"We look forward to this 365 days of the year. It's like Christmas to them," he said.

Many of the props end up at his home and add to his own show after the Jacob Myers Park event.

"I've seen some adults even who won't walk up to my porch. They are too scared. They just stand out front at the gate and wait for the kids," he said.

Like many of the scare site organizers, Pettit gets his ideas from horror movies such as "Night of the Living Dead," "My Bloody Valentine," "The Ring" and "Friday the 13th."

He also looks out for sales of props by connoisseurs and recently got his hands on a couple of large scaring devices worked by electronics and compressed air that will add to his collection.

He's been experimenting with more light and sound effects, motion detectors that will turn lights on and off and infrared lenses that will let a camera work in the dark.

For more information on the haunted hayride, call 869-7010.