This Halloween, the Oxford Park Commission is teaming up with Ole Miss’s Park and Recreation Management Association to organize a “Goblin’s Egg Hunt” for children ages four to eight and a “Haunted Forest” for all who are willing, providing alternative spooky fun for virtually every age. The forest will be open at Avent Park beginning at 7 p.m. on Oct. 30-31. Admission will be $4. The egg hunt takes place on Avent’s tennis courts on Halloween only at 6 p.m. and participating children must be in costume.
The OPC and the university have, in fact, been partnering for nearly 25 years to provide this chilling display for the Oxford community. The event serves as promotion for the OPC as well as a learning experience and fundraiser for the students in Ole Miss’s Park and Recreation Management program. “Our main goal is to help out the university and their scholarships,” said Mike Young, director of the administrative side of the event. Profits from the event are split 60/40 between the university and the Oxford Park Commission respectively.
Funding is not the only way that the annual project benefits university students. Roy Smith, a self proclaimed “jack of all trades” with the OPC, sees the event as a teaching experience for the students that might one day want a position similar to his. Smith and other OPC employees take care of the trail’s major construction before the students come to bring in props for their scenes.
Having worked on the Haunted Forest for 10 years, Smith still enjoys watching visitors experience it for their first time. “To me, I enjoy watching the kids come out and have a good time and I like watching them get scared,” Smith said.
Whitney Reeser and her classmates in Program Planning and Development 302 planned all semester for the sets, costumes, and performances to be included in the Haunted Forest. For her, planning on paper for something that has to become real was the most difficult aspect of the project.
Reeser, who will be portraying a zombie along the haunted trail, is most excited to use her stage make-up skills as she helps her classmates get ready for their eerie debut. “I was always a theatre kid and I didn’t expect to be setting up basically an acting scene as a parks and rec major,” she said.
Young believes that the Haunted Forest and Goblin’s Egg Hunt event is important in the community and illustrates OPC’s purpose. “It gets people involved in the community—just gives them something else to do besides just going door to door on Halloween with their kids.”
Reeser, who as already been planning her scare tactics, sees the trail as a chance for those who dare to come to get a little closer with their friends and evens strangers. “When people get scared, they tend to huddle together,” Reeser said, laughing.
Photos and story by Grace Sullivan. Grace is a journalism student with the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.