Frightfully fun night

Published 12:03 am Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vampires: Aiden and Hayleigh Ellis were in full character as vampires on Friday night at the Southwestern Elementary School annual fall fair.

The laughter and chatter that usually echo in the halls of Southwestern Elementary School were replaced with screams and the sound of a roaring chainsaw on Friday night.

The Parent Teacher Association of Southwestern Elementary School held its annual fall festival — complete with haunted hallways for a frightfully fun time.

“It’s something the entire community looks forward to every year,” said Dawn Evans, PTA president. “We have people from all over the community — whether they go to the school or not — come and participate each year. I don’t know how long it’s been going on. We used to do it when I attended middle school here.”

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At least 300 parents and children filed into the school to participate in activities including games, bounce houses, a costume contest, a cake walk, a walk through the haunted hallways and enjoy a safe, family-friendly night out in costume.

A favorite activity was the haunted hallways, which have been a tradition for the past five years.

The first part of the walk included spider webs, spooky trees and a mad scientist with squishy experiments for students to feel.

For those who dared to continue, more frightful times were in store.

With torn black tarps periodically hung from the ceiling, the halls are pitch black and one can’t see what’s beyond the next. They can just hear the screams of the group in front of them.

A skeleton might pop out from behind a wall. A bride might spring up from her coffin. Or, a jack might pop out of his box.

“The chain saw, the chain saw, he was the scariest,” reported a group of children coming out of the hallway referring to a bloodied man with a chainsaw in the hallway.

“I screamed,” said Alexis Kyles.

“So, did I,” agreed Anya Colyer excitedly.

“It was really, really scary,” Alexis added.

The man waving the chainsaw was one of a handful of volunteers who came out from Naval Air Station Oceana to help with the event.

“It takes us days to put everything together,” said Kim Crowell, a fourth grade teacher in charge of the project. “The day of the event, we have middle and high school students who attended as students in the past, teachers and community members volunteer to play the different parts. It’s really a huge group effort.”

Evans said that businesses and individuals from Holland, downtown and even Franklin all donated items to make the evening possible.

“It’s our largest fundraiser of the year,” Evans said. “Without the help of the community we wouldn’t be able to make as much of a profit as we do. The whole community really pitches in to make it possible.

Evans estimated it raises between $3,000 and $4,000 a year, which goes back to the school to help purchase supplies, field trips and fulfill grants for teachers.

“We’re going to keep doing this for as long as we have a school,” Evans said.