Saturday, October 24, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 34
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Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story

The following article was posted on October 14th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 33

Elks Recreation teams up with Santa Maria Recreation and Parks for drive-through horror event, 'Haunted Hills'

By CALEB WISEBLOOD

Thrills and chills await the daring souls brave enough to venture to the Elks Unocal Event Center this Halloween season. The outdoor rodeo venue was recently transformed into Haunted Hills—the inaugural horror-themed drive-through event co-hosted by Elks Recreation and the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department. 


Trick or treat
Haunted Hills will run Fridays and Saturdays, from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.—Friday, Oct. 16, through Saturday, Oct. 31—at the Elks Event Center, located at 4040 S. Highway 101, Santa Maria. Call (805) 925-4125 or visit elksrec.com for more info. Limited tickets, scheduled in hourly increments, are $30 per car and are available in advance only (no tickets will be sold at the front entrance).

WRITING’S ON THE WALL
The Haunted Hills ride itself stretches nearly 3 miles, which encompasses more than 20 different horror-themed scenes.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ELKS RECREATION

The three-week festivity begins on Friday, Oct. 16, and will remain open every Friday and Saturday through Halloween night, Saturday, Oct. 31.

“The large open space available at the Unocal Event Center makes a drive-through event completely achievable, and the fact that it gets really dark there when the sun goes down doesn’t hurt,” Dennis Smitherman, recreation services manager of the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department, told the Sun. “Being the first of its kind in our area, the Haunted Hills drive-through will not be for the faint of heart.”

While drive-in and drive-through styled events are becoming increasingly popular in lieu of in-person gatherings either canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, it was fitting for the two local organizations to team up for “a fun and safe alternative to the traditional haunted house attractions that are usually provided in our community,” Smitherman said.


SET THE SCENE
“Dilapidated tractors, cars, and even a freezer truck will be part of the spectacle, all in order to scare people by the carloads,” Dennis Smitherman said, commenting on some of the horror scenes’ rural aesthetic.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ELKS RECREATION

“This year, due to the pandemic, it just made sense for different agencies with like missions to provide activities for our community while utilizing shared resources,” Smitherman said. “While the city has been hosting ‘drive-in’ events during the pandemic—bingo, movies, stargazing—this will be our first project that will require participants to ‘drive-through.’”

Attendees of Haunted Hills won’t ever need to leave their vehicles during their stay—although they may certainly be tempted to evacuate at any given rush of adrenaline. The ride itself extends nearly 3 miles, which encompasses more than 20 different horror-themed scenes. Each scene consists of its own unique, horrifying collection of creepy costumed actors, atmospheric set designs, and spooky soundtracks. 

“Vignettes, lighting, costumes, and scary music—played over your radio, similar to a drive-in theater—promise to give you at least a little chill, if not a full-on fright,” Smitherman said. “There is a very robust team of people from both organizations planning and preparing for this event. 


DOOR TO HORROR
Haunted Hills brings together spooky vignettes, lighting, costumes, and scary music—played over each car’s radio, similar to a drive-in theater—all in the name of Halloween fun.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ELKS RECREATION

“The Elks Recreation and Lodge staff and volunteers have been working hard to create vignettes that are appropriate for our area,” he added, commenting on some of the scenes’ rural aesthetic. “Dilapidated tractors, cars, and even a freezer truck will be part of the spectacle, all in order to scare people by the carloads.”

Admission to the Haunted Hills drive-through event is only available in advance, as no tickets will be available at the front entrance (visit elksrec.com to reserve your spot). Limited tickets will be distributed, based on hourly increments between 7:30 and 10 p.m. during each operating night.

The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department is already planning to team up with Elks Recreation for another upcoming holiday drive-through event at the Elks Unocal Event Center, Smitherman said—albeit one much more cheerful than fearful: Christmas in the Country, which is slated to open sometime after Thanksgiving. 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood wants to know which Halloween cereal you prefer (Count Chocula, Frankenberry, or Boo Berry). Send comments to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.









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