DANBURY—Wearing masks—both decorative and real—hundreds of people ventured into the woods behind St. Gregory the Great Parish for a socially-distanced night of fear-induced fun.
The second annual “Forest of Fear,” a quarter mile wooded trail of the hair-raising unexpected is filled with thrills and shrills for all who dare to enter the Great Plain Road Halloween attraction.
“Kids need to have fun,” said Pastor Father Michael Dunn, as he greeted visitors arriving on opening night. “It’s a big fundraiser, too.”
Last year, thousands visited the event which raised about $20,000 for the parish including scholarships for St. Gregory School. It was such a success, that this year more attractions were added. Father Dunn said they also extended the event by one night and increased the entrance fee to $15 per person.
“It’s very professionally done,” said Father Dunn, who worked with Gene McNamara, Bob Novella and Dave Knight to design and develop the Forest of Fear. McNamara is a parishioner and was involved in creating a popular corn maze in the neighboring town of Brookfield, years ago.
Father Dunn said he has fond family memories of Halloween and this is an opportunity to help create those kinds of memories for other families while also benefiting the parish.
“My dad used to take us around as kids to Halloween attractions. I remember how fun it was as a kid and there’s not a lot of fun things for kids to do nowadays with the pandemic,” he said.
Father Dunn, who created a similar experience during his time at St. Mary’s in Bethel, said the effort is a parish and community collaboration with parish members and community businesses donating money or props to create the spooky experience.
The elaborate wooded trail, which took months to construct, promises to be quite a treat for anyone looking for a safe environment for some Halloween fun.
All safety guidelines and precautions were followed in accordance with the Diocese of Bridgeport.
All volunteers were temperature screened prior to participating in the event and for contact tracing purposes. Protective face coverings are required for all guests and are always worn by all staff.
The event also enforces social distancing, in queue lines as well as inside the Forest of Fear. Groups can walk the trail together but no groups are combined and attendees must maintain at least six feet from the group in front of them.
Sanitizing stations are available and there is a separate entrance and exit both decorated with pumpkins carved by students at the school.
“Some people get scared and want to run through the trail, others get scared and freeze in place,” said Terry Kennen, a secretary at the school and one of the many volunteers who make the Forest of Fear a success.
Kennen, dressed as a spider greeted guests to the event, reassuring youngsters and their families that the trail is a lot of fun and only gets truly scary when the sun goes down.
During the first hour of the five-night three weekend event, children, some wearing their Halloween best including little princesses, action heroes and monsters and their families or anyone who prefers a “no-scare” experience, are greeted by friendly ghouls and goblins waving and smiling to greet them. Following the children’s hour, the trail lives up to its name.
Visitors can expect to walk through a corn maze with scarecrows and gruesome monsters lurking about, find an abandoned cabin with the unexpected inside and, of course, a Forest of Fear would not be complete without a fog-filled graveyard of the unknown. Leaves rustling underfoot, the cackle of a witch in the distance and bone-chilling screams are all a part of the Forest of Fear.
The creativity of illusions with the appropriate accompanying eerie sounds or music will trick the mind during this walk through the woods. It is quite the treat.
“It’s something fun, given the pandemic right now,” said John Esposito, Danbury Councilman, who was attending the event with his family.
Father Dunn, who initially greeted visitors as they arrived and who helped create the non-traditional corn maze portion of the trail, vanished to get into costume to play an active part in the Forest of Fear.
Children were huddled together trying to figure out which costumed character was their teacher as they entered the trail with nervous laughter of anticipation.
“We went last year in the kid version, so we thought we’d try something different and go at night,” said eighth-grader Holden Hafkimeyer, who was waiting in line with his brother and brother’s friend.
Fifth-grader Shayleigh Barrett enjoyed the trail especially the clowns, the corn maze and the one of a kind stuffed animal freaky feature.
“I’m always surprised about the effort,” said Shayleigh’s mom, Suzanne said. “It’s all church members and school members who volunteer their time. It’s totally worth bringing the family for Halloween.”
NOTE: The Forest of Fear is open this weekend Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24 and Friday, October 30.
Tickets are sold on-site. The cost is $15 per person.
5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Children’s Hour
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm : Scary