Haunted Hammock readies for Halloween frights
SEBRING - Halloween is coming to Highlands Hammock State Park Friday and Saturday, and the first-ever Haunted Hammock has a little something for everybody. The intrepid ones can hit the haunted house maze, set up in the picnic area, and then take a 25-minute-long tram tour in the woods where they will encounter scary skits in the dark, put on by volunteer ghouls and zombies. There will also be a kids' area where children can entertain themselves with carnival-type games and a DJ, said Assistant Park Manager Brian Pinson. Costume contests also will be held at various intervals, and the park will give out candy and sell glow sticks, food and drinks.The event is from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and is a fundraiser for the Friends of Highlands Hammock, which raises money to help with park improvements. Entry for Haunted Hammock is $5 for adults and $2 for those between 6 and 12. Children under 6 can enter free. Those who come in after 5.45 p.m. won't pay the park's entrance fee, but visitors are welcome to spend some time at the park before heading to the Halloween event if they want, he added. Pinson, who has been with the park for 14 months, said most of the state parks he's worked for have put on something for Halloween. When he found out that Highlands Hammock's longtime staff members have always wanted to do a Halloween-themed event, the "stars all aligned" together and Haunted Hammock was born. Park ranger Andrea Nelson has helped to coordinate it and said staff members have put in several hours setting things up and making sure all the safety protocols are followed, from making the trails safe to painting the 100-plus stakes in the maze a neon color so visitors wouldn't trip over them in the dark. Wednesday, several students from area student groups were at the park to discuss different ways they could volunteer. Aaliya Eastburn, who is with Avon Park High School's National Honor Society, was supposed to help in the kids' area while Dominic Mikel, also from Avon Park High, was going to direct traffic with his fellow ROTC cadets. Pinson, who was recruiting zombies and monsters for the haunted house, asked students to take a walk-through and see if they wanted to "adopt" any sections. A lot of giggling and squealing took place as hordes of kids navigated themselves through the Visqueen maze, which will be accessorized by strobe lights, fog from fog machines and plenty of gloulish props, Pinson said. Haunted Halloween was going to be spread out on 1,000 acres of the 9,000-acre park, Pinson told the volunteers. He was expecting about 2,000 people to attend the two days, but because of park regulations, could not accommodate more than 300 cars at a time and strongly urged those attending to car pool. Alcohol will not be allowed, he added, and six Florida Fish and Wildlife officers will help with the security, he added.