Presented by the Children’s Animal Center (CAC), the Fifth Annual Spooktacular Halloween Extravaganza is going to raise the bar once again, if Animal Care Specialist Amber Wiedeman has anything to say about it.
“This was my first project after I started here as CAC Supervisor,” she said. “It’s nice to see the same faces attending each year, but the event is also branching out as more people hear about it. Something that started off so simple has turned into an extravaganza, as our staff, interns and volunteers seem to have a really good time making sure it is a great night.”
The event, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 29 from 5-7 p.m., takes more than Halloween magic to thrive.
“Basically, right after the Spooktacular is over, we talk about improvements for the following year,” she said. “After Spring Break, we’re planning ahead for this. It helps that we’re in year five, so we already have the prep down for the most part.”
There will be a wide array of Halloween games, crafts and other activities in and around the Children’s Animal Center (CAC), as well as in the nearby EcoCenter.
“We should have a couple of additions to this year’s event,” Wiedeman said. “We have a volunteer, Sara Paulsen, who was previously a school teacher and wants to have a Story Time for our guests, so we’ll have that going on. We hope to have a Hay Maze this year if the weather cooperates.”
Although she said she likes all of the events offered, Wiedeman does have her favorites.
“The Jack-O’-Lantern Carving Contest always ends up being awesome, and last year we had some watermelons that we ended up carving along with the pumpkins,” she said. “Our ‘What’s This? Guessing Game’ where you stick your hand in a box and guess what the item is – that’s always very popular. Those are a couple I find very entertaining to watch.”
Keeping with Fossil Rim’s general approach to visitors, the event’s goal is to ensure guests have fun and learn at the same time.
“Learning and having fun should go hand-in-hand,” Wiedeman said. “We want the kids to have hands-on learning. Our education department will have craft activities going on, and we’re here to educate the public. If we can have fun while we’re doing it, then why shouldn’t we?”
The education department’s program animals will be on display at the “Creepy Crawlers Table.”
“We should have our African giant millipede, a snake and our Madagascar hissing cockroaches,” she said.
The CAC goats, and even a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, will be performing.
“We try to make it so every one of our goats gets to show off a little bit,” she said. “You can tell who is focused on training and see who is food-motivated. We let ‘Hamlet’ show off, too, and for him that means bobbing for apples. All of our critters can do something, and it’s their time to shine.”
While the event is free, donations are welcome.
“Donations will go toward CAC Barn renovations,” Wiedeman said. “This barn has been here since the late 80s, so it’s in need of an overhaul. We hope to add additional species to this area, which means updates and additions are necessary. We need a more traditional setup so we can have a temperature-controlled environment for additional species; it’s about adding to our animal collection and boosting the experience here.”
Beyond donations, the Spooktacular Bake Sale is crucial to the fundraising cause. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 22-28 in front of the Nature Store, and then 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 29 in between the Nature Store and the CAC.
“The bake sale is really important to us,” she said. “Last year was the first time we did it, and I found out it was an important, popular fundraiser. So many people contributed amazing, delicious items that it was a huge hit.”
The fun does not have to be done after the Spooktacular, as visitors can transition right into a special Halloween edition of a Discovery After Dark tour that leaves at 7 p.m. from the tour check-in area. This tour is $35 per person and includes a pass for a Scenic Wildlife Drive, as well.
“How often do you get to see a wildlife park after dark and find out what the animals are up to?” Wiedeman said. “It’s a chance to see Fossil Rim from a new perspective, and some species will be more active and friendly than how you may otherwise know them.”
It should not be difficult to tell who is working the event, as Fossil Rim folks will be dressed in character.
“This year’s costume theme is storytelling,” she said. “What’s your favorite storybook theme? I’m hoping to see some really creative costumes this year. It gives our staff and volunteers a chance to have fun and do something a little different out here.”
With numerous people chipping in, the event should deliver a frightfully good time.
“This is a chance for us to come together as a staff for something where we are all at the same location,” Wiedeman said. “I like to see that Fossil Rim camaraderie.”
For more information about the Spooktacular Halloween Extravaganza or the tour set to follow, please call 254.897.2960.
-Tye Chandler, Marketing Associate