The COVID-19 pandemic has scared off a lot of how communities traditionally celebrate and congregate, but efforts for Santa Clarita residents to still get a good scare for this year’s Halloween is underway.
It’s a countdown to “lights, camera, action” at the city of Santa Clarita as officials prepare to convert the George A. Caravalho Santa Clarita Sports Complex, located at 20870 Centre Pointe Parkway, into an immersive drive-thru event and competition — all modified to bring a COVID-safe experience, off course.
“We’re really trying to provide a unique and alternative way to keep people engaged and excited amid the pandemic,” said Kyle Lopez, the city’s Arts and Events supervisor.
The Haunted Highway, which quickly filled reservations and is set to run Thursday, Oct. 29-30, will offer elements typically seen at regular mazes and staged haunted houses: set pieces, props, live actors, lighting, sound and visual effects. The twist this year is that participants will be able to enjoy the event without getting out of their cars or needing to lower car windows.
“This event, guided by the (Los Angeles) county’s guidelines are designed to bring a contactless experience where families can stay in their vehicles and stay safe while still bringing them a fun time,” said David Knutson, an administrator at the Arts and Events division.
How it works
When guests and their party arrive in their vehicles, they will be checked in before driving through an alley of scarecrows, followed by six other locations, each with different “spooky themes,” said Lopez.
“Each scene will tell a different story with fun decorations, some a little spooky and others really scary. There’s something for the whole family,” she said.
To maximize safety, guests will be advised to keep their car windows up to help add an extra layer of safety for both attendees and staff who will be at each station supervising and helping operate the Haunted Highway, according to Knutson.
“Windows can remain up but if they would like to roll them down guests will have to wear a mask to keep everyone safe,” he said, adding that safety is also a priority when setting up the event. “We aren’t looking for volunteers for setup. We only have city staff to minimize the number of people together and during the event, there will be a minimal amount of staff at each station.”
Synced to all the action at each scene, drivers will be able to tune into a designated radio station to hear all the sound effects, and at the end of the event, each vehicle will receive a to-go bag filled with Halloween candy, frats and other goodies, said Lopez.
The experience is approximately 15 minutes from start to finish.
Reservations filled up fast, even after the addition of a second date on Oct. 29 but there’s still a chance for those who will not be able to participate in the Haunted Highway to partake in a competition open to families, nonprofits and businesses.
The start of Haunted Highway will take drivers down Scarecrow Alley but those creepy scarecrows have to come from somewhere. That’s where the community can participate.
At no cost, participants will have a chance to decorate a scarecrow to be featured in the dedicated alley on both nights of the Haunted Highway event, as well as a day-long public viewing at the Sports Complex on Oct. 31 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
All residents have to do is submit a form before Oct. 19 to enter the competition, which will be judged by a panel of city staff and community partners. Prizes will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each of three categories: Family, non-profit and business. To apply to participate in Scarecrow Alley, visit santa-clarita.com/Scarecrow.
Abiding by the safety guidelines
The city’s drive-thru event was created with L.A. County Public Health’s safety guidelines surrounding Halloween activities. Whether you’ll attend in the Haunted Highway or are partaking in other plans, here’s what to consider:
Under L.A. County, social gatherings with people outside of one’s household, carnivals, festivals, haunted house attractions or live entertainment are prohibited.
“For this year, it’s just simply not safe to celebrate in the ways that we usually do,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s Public Health Department, during a previous county broadcast.
Traditional door-to-door trick or treating or trunk-or-treating, where treats are handed out from trunks of vehicles lined up in large parking lots, are not recommended by both L.A. County and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has issued fall holiday guidelines via low-to-high-risk categories.
Besides traditional trick-or-treating, attending crowded indoor costume parties, going on hayrides with others outside of one’s household or traveling to a rural fall festival outside of one’s community are also considered high risk.
Low-risk activities, which L.A. County also recommends, include virtual costume contests or related events, pumpkin carving with your household unit or with friends and neighbors at a safe distance, scavenger hunts and outdoor Halloween movie nights.
To find out the best activities to do based on the COVID-risk level in one’s community, the Halloween and Costume Association, in collaboration with data from the Harvard Global Health Institute, has created a virtual map and color-coded guide to help people plan safely this Halloween. To access the guide, visit https://www.halloween2020.org.