Thursday, April 18, 2024

Festivities evolve after haunted house closure

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MANSON - The Manson Chamber of Commerce is working hard to pivot their Halloween plans after their popular haunted house had to close its doors just weeks before the opening weekend due to safety concerns from the county fire marshal.

"It is with disappointment and even sadness that I share with you the news that Manson's Haunted House (only) has been canceled for 2023," Manson Chamber President Kim Ustanik said in an email announcement.

The haunted house is part of the town's many Halloween-themed events leading up to Halloween. Ustanik stressed that the haunted house is the only part of the festivities that is affected.

Upon inspection of the haunted house, the fire marshal imposed a set of regulations to ensure the safety of visitors and workers in the structure, which is composed of donated apple bins.

"They said they don't want to shut us down," Ustanik said. "That was not their intention. As a matter of fact, the building department even issued a temporary occupancy permit for us for specific days. But there was one of his regulations that there's no way we can make it work with it."

The one regulation they could not make work was that there could not be a cover of any kind over the structure, not a tarp or a raised cover like a party tent. The structure was previously covered with a tarp.

"And as you can see right now, it looks like we're going to have fall this year," she said. "Last year we didn't, but nonetheless, we can't predict when it's going to rain. And we have really quite an investment in furnishings and decorations and electrical equipment and sound and lighting."

On top of the investment in building the haunted house, there are also student and adult volunteers, paid workers, and people buying tickets, Ustanik said.

"And if it gets rained out, it would just be a disaster," she said. Ustanik stated that safety is the top concern of all involved.

Instead of the haunted house operating all month, as was planned, it will be disassembled and parts of it will be used for a one-day-only haunted house experience inside a local winery on Saturday, Oct. 28 in downtown Manson.

On that same day, Manson has a pumpkin walk and a zombie dash, and the chamber now plans to push all events to that day and have it culminate with a big block party in downtown Manson. Events will include a silent auction, live auction, costume dance party and more with harvest and haunted events happening all month long at local businesses.

"We are going to have a great big haunted house at Radiance Winery, which is just a fabulous venue and central right there in the downtown area," Ustanik said. "We're going to have entertainment and an auction to try to recoup a little bit of the expenses and to give the community a really fun time, and the people that we can bring in from out of the area. And, if we can, maybe at least, focus some money on the senior class this year."

The haunted house has been a fundraiser for the classes at Manson High School to use for their senior trip. Students earn money by volunteering as actors and to help operate the haunted house. Many of the volunteers and actors in the haunted house are high school students.

Not only is the haunted house a fundraiser for high schoolers but it also brings in tourism to support the local economy.

"It is an economic venture to support our businesses and help make the fall be a season when people from far away want to come and stay here at the Lake Chelan Valley," she said. "We had great promotions for hotels to be able to give out discounted tickets so they could encourage people to come and stay at their hotels, and of course, we do want these people that are coming into our town to go to our restaurants and our wineries and our shops and spend their money there. That's our economy, and we aren't going to be able to do that the way that we wanted to do it either this year, though we are pivoting."

Many of the actors, or spooky characters from the haunted house, will be found around town during the new celebration on the 28th. During the day, it will be family-friendly, and at night, more of a spooky adult event, Ustanik said.

"It is just gonna look a little different this year, and then we'll regroup and see what we need to do for next year," she said.

At the time of press, many of the details were still being worked out. Check back for coverage as details are fleshed out.

Quinn Propst: (509) 731-3590 or quinn@ward.media

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