After 28 years of constructing a house of fear and fright and delight, the Guenther family and cast and crew say that this year, sadly, they do not have enough volunteers for the big Halloween show. For 23 years, Ann and Dan Guenther, along with their children, neighbors and a cast of no fewer than 100 people, would create a haunted house on Center Street, never revealing the ghoulish details or theme until the unveiling on Halloween night. The production became so popular and well-attended that it outgrew their home and had to be moved to Hasbrouck Park in the heart of the village, where they put on “Haunted Castle” in 2007, followed by “Carnivore Cruise,” “Malice in Wonderland” and finally, “New York City Goes Underwater.”
“Maybe that was a foreshadowing?” says Ann Guenther, the matriarch of Halloween in New Paltz, who admitted that she’s disappointed that they couldn’t get enough volunteers for the “big production” this year. “But we will have a little kids’ production in the playground at Hasbrouck Park,” she explains. “We will also have the SUNY-New Paltz Music Therapy Club hosting a drum circle in the pavilion, and there are lots of ideas being tossed about…we have DVDs of past Haunted Halloweens that we could project if someone had the equipment and a screen; we’d love to do a haunted maze for middle-school-age children…we have the basketball courts where someone could be a deejay for a night and have people dancing…”
Asked why the magical Halloween era has come to a semi-halt, Guenther, after a thoughtful pause, says, “I think there are several reasons: One is the economy. People are preoccupied with finding ways of making ends meet now and in the future. I think we’re all still reeling from the hurricane; whether we were directly affected or not, our neighbors were, our town was, our farmers…”
She agrees that the community effort for Flood Aid, which raised upwards of $52,000 for local farmers, families and first responders, “was a daunting undertaking and was such a wonderful event, but sometimes it’s too much to do those kinds of things back-to-back — and if there was only one show, that was the show that had to go on!”
Still, Guenther, a child at heart, can’t help but do everything that she can to ensure that “the little kids have a production. I don’t want them to miss out on the great spirit of Halloween. It’s my favorite day of the year, because we all connect; we get to be scary and silly and creative and fearsome! It’s not new. It’s something that’s been happening all over the world for millions of years: people sitting around a campfire and putting on masks and dancing or singing and acting and being terrifying or goofy!”
While the show will be on a smaller scale this year, it will still go on, and Guenther encourages anyone who has a fun, freaky, festive Halloween idea to call her at 255-9297. “We still need actors for the kids’ production. The roles are simple, and it would just take an hour or so of rehearsal,” she says. “We have the park all day Sunday, Oct. 30 to set up, and can use volunteers for that, as well as our Pumpkin Patrol” in which people are given bright orange shirts and help ensure that everyone is having fun and is safe at the park on Halloween night. The show will go on, albeit on a smaller, different scale from approximately 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., just after the parade.
“I’m so happy that the parade is still going strong, because that’s always a highlight!” she says. “And I hope that next year we can bring the big production back. These are serious times, and we are a resilient community with so many wonderful, bright people doing so many good things; but we also have to remember to come together and celebrate and laugh and have fun!”