Busch Gardens. In its brief history, Pumpkins in the Park with its headlining event, the Haunted Trail Hayride, has quickly become on of the most popular events in the tri-state area (KY, VA and TN).
This year's event is set for Friday and Saturday, October 28-29 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night. Admission is $3 per vehicle on Friday night (hayride only) and $5 per vehicle on Saturday night.
“Pumpkins in the Park is one of the most popular and well attended events at Wilderness Road
Friday night will exclusively feature the Haunted Trail Hayride while Saturday night’s activities, along with the hayride, will include pumpkin painting, a haunted maze, face painting, spooky music, costume and jack-o-lantern contests, storytelling and community based trunk-or-treat. Also, WJNV – Jonesville radio station, 99.1FM, will be broadcasting live.
Those wishing to participate in the costume contests should meet at the stage area at the Karlan Mansion by 6:30 p.m. Those wishing to enter the jack-o-lantern contest should have their pre-carved pumpkins on the hay bales in front of the mansion also by 6:30 p.m. Judging will take place between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for the costume contests in three categories, ages infant-5 years, ages 6-8 and ages 9-12. One prize will be awarded for the best overall jack-o-lantern.
Refreshments will be available both nights. The Friends of Wilderness Road State Park will sell eats and drinks in the Visitor Center, and the Boone’s Path Lion’s Club will serve up a variety of items at the Karlan Mansion on Saturday night.
Last year more than 30 groups participated in the community based Trunk-or-Treat, a key component of Pumpkins in the Park. And with crowd numbers continuing to climb, the park is again asking for the community’s assistance to help meet the demand of costume-clad candy seeking children.
Participants park on the Karlan Mansion lawn to distribute candy from the trunks of their vehicle. Each trunker is encouraged to dress up, decorate their vehicle and create signs recognizing their church, group, business or family. Some area residents only get a few trick-or-treaters because of our rural location, but by assisting in the Trunk-or-Treat, the celebration can be a true community event.
“Last year, we had about 15 groups register and more than 30 show up to hand out candy, so we were very pleased with the turnout,” explained Brindle. “We fully expect a larger turnout this year. So, we are again encouraging area churches, businesses, organizations and families to come out and participate in order to make it a true community event.”
The community can also get involved by picking out one of their best pumpkins, and carving a jack-o-lantern that will be displayed on the lawn of the Karlan Mansion during Pumpkins in the Park. Each pumpkin will automatically be entered in the “Best Jack-O-Lantern” contest. “We are really putting an emphasis on getting the community involved in the park and our programs,” stated Jon Tustin, park manager.
For the first time, the park is offering T-Shirts commemorating the local holiday favorite, printed locally by Pullin Ink in Pennington Gap. The shirt features a graphic pumpkin patch with the slogan “I survived the Haunted Trail Hayride.” They sell for $12 each, available in sizes 3T (toddler) through 3XL. Proceeds go to the Friends of Wilderness Road State Park to assist with funding for next year’s event.
Despite the overwhelming success of the Haunted Trail Hayride in its first two years, the headlining event for Pumpkins in the Park, has once again undergone a significant upgrade.
“We have changed the Haunted Trail Hayride up quite a bit,” says Brindle. “We’ve added more scenes (now about 18-20 in total), new lighting effects to illuminate the scenes better and creepy sounds to bring each scene more to life. Our maintenance staff has worked very hard to create some awesome props for this year. Some even amaze me. Just when you thought you had seen it all, wait until this year."
The Haunted Trail Hayride is a spine-tingling journey along a wooded trail, which has quickly become one of the tri-state area’s largest, most popular Halloween events.
With the crowds growing each year, the park is making special arrangements to cut down on the wait-time for the hayride. "One of our biggest issues has been meeting the demand of visitors wanting to ride the hayride," explained Brindle. "While that's a good problem to have, we want to make everyone's experience more enjoyable. We are working hard to cut down on wait time."
One way visitors can avoid the long wait is to attend Friday night's festivities, which exclusively features the hayride, and, on average, smaller crowds. The park is also adding a fourth tractor and wagon, which should speed things up and some special guests will be on hand to help entertain the crowd while they wait.
While the hayride will feature several new additions, some of the classic Halloween scenes will return but, of course, will have a new added twist, or two, or three. The Wilderness Witch continues to haunt the trail, while the Grim Reaper is desperately searching for new residents for the Karlan Cemetery. Also, there has been some strange howling going on around the trail as Halloween approaches, and the scarecrows in the corn seem to be in a different location from where they were originally placed.
The park is striving to make this year’s event the best yet, with the focus to remain on providing a fun and safe Halloween experience. We look forward to seeing you and be prepared to be scared!
For more information, or to find out how your church, group, business or family can help make this event a success, please call Directions here.