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A simple idea 21 years ago to create a little trail to frighten people one night a year to raise money for a fledgling wildlife park has turned into one of the most-anticipated, weekend-long events for those who like to get their spook on.

Back then it was long-time Two Rivers Wildlife Park Manager John Huntington who came up with the idea – and on his own. More than two decades later, no one could have envisioned the seasonal haunted village that comes to life each year thanks to the help of about 100 staff and volunteers.

Linda Hayes, Special Events Coordinator with the park, says this year about 6,000 people are expected to scream and run their way through 1.2 km of trails that include eight permanent buildings and attractions, such as the Vortex, a spinning metal tube with black lights that creates an optical illusion that makes you feel like you are spinning with the tube.

Hayes describes the event as “extremely scary”.

“Most people think that they will make it through the trail, but every night there are people who can’t make it through,” she says. “Some can’t get passed the opening maze at the entrance.”

This year the park has Search and Rescue on site to assist people who are too frightened to remain on the trail. In Previous years the park hired security to keep everyone feeling safe.

She says that despite putting the event together, this year the volunteer spooksters were able to frighten her. “It is really impressive what the kids did this year.”

Although the weekend is full of fear, many of the 100 volunteers are between 15 and 17 years old. However, they represent all demographics; some are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, says Hayes.

When asked about some of her favourite moments during her 17 years participating in Freight Night, those young volunteers weren’t far from her mind.

“At the end of the night all of the volunteers gather to tell their stories,” Hayes explains. “I love hearing the kids telling everyone about their ‘scares’ during the night.”

It might be her memory of Jason that most sticks in her mind. “One year someone dressed up as Jason and came out of the water as visitors were walking by,” she says. “The person was a scuba diver and wore his wet suit while awaiting his next victims.”

Hayes says she also enjoys watching husbands throwing their wives in front of the perceived danger and parents (briefly) abandoning their children as they run for their lives.

Another 1,000 visitors are expected for Family Day, which takes place annually on the Sunday after the final weekend of Freight Night. This is an opportunity for young families to walk through the trails in the daylight. Instead of the spooky Freight Night costumes you will see at the weekend event, Family Day is filled with clowns, princesses, and superheroes who can trick-and-treat at the eight buildings along the trails.

Halloween is a special time of year at Two Rivers Wildlife Park in Mira. Fright Night and Family Day are the park’s marque annual fundraisers. The park will use the funds to feed the animals and pay the staff during the winter months.

Fright Night takes place this Friday and Saturday nights at Two Rivers. Tickets are $18 per person (cash only) and are available at Keltic Kubota, Gillis Home Hardware, United Farmers Coop, and Cameron Building Supplies.

Family Day is October 29 from noon until 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person, and children under 2 are admitted at no cost. PHD and Hubba Paris will be performing during the afternoon.

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