HARRISBURG -- Volunteers preparing the 25th Coleman Tri-County Services say they expect larger crowds than usual for its annual haunted forest at the Saline County Fairgrounds.
"I know some people will be traveling here from as far away as Wisconsin," haunted forest director Lisa Knight said Tuesday afternoon.
A large part of that draw will be because actor C.J. Graham, one of the actors who portrayed killer Jason Voorhees in the "Friday the 13th" movie series, will be on hand to help scare participants, Knight said.
That's not the only reason, though, she said.
"At our event during the day on Saturday here at the fairgrounds, we'll have a lot of attractions, including the monster truck 'Bigfoot,'" she said. "Plus, with this being our 25th year, we think we'll have more people than usual."
In fact, the reason the venue was moved from the Ridgway City Park to Saline County Fairgrounds partly was in anticipation of a larger crowd this year, Knight said.
"It was getting big enough that we were sort of running out of room where we were, and we thought we'd have more room to spread out here at the fairgrounds," she said.
The prices for the haunted forest are $10 per car, $20 per private hayride or $5 per person to take Coleman Tri-County's hayride. The haunted forest is 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday and 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Graham, the "Jason" actor, will not be present on Thursday night.
Coleman Tri-County's own hayrides are the fastest option through the haunted forest. The hayrides stage at Sherrod's Collision Center's parking lot next to the fairgrounds.
The support of volunteers is a large reason the program has been a success the past 25 years, Knight said.
The week of the haunted forest has a lot of preparation leading up to the main event, and on this particular afternoon longtime volunteer Wayman Winters, owner of Pickford's Flowers, is busy preparing the Exhibition Hall. Arrays of prop tarantulas, fake dismembered body parts and Halloween-themed monsters can be seen both in arrangements and in storage containers as Winters decorates. His son-in-law Bryant Bennett and volunteer Ryan Swallow all are pitching in to make this year's event extra-special and scary, Winters said.
While making a scary, yet family-friendly setting is important, what's more important is contributing to the community, Winters said.
"It's just fun," he said. "We're giving back to the community and helping those less fortunate."
Knight said the volunteer help doesn't just come in the form of on-the-scene helpers. This year, she has a haunted forest hearse with a special paint job just for the event.
"My director said if I could find one in a certain price range I could get it. I ended up coming in under that figure," Knight said. "And then, Wes Sherrod of Sherrod's Collision Center gave it a professional paint job. We really appreciate people helping out like that."
For more information about the haunted forest, contact Coleman Tri-County Services at (618) 378-2191.