October 2021

The Return of Halloween Events

Theme Parks Announce Scarefests After 2020 Hiatus

By Erik Chalhoub

I’ve been surprised over the past few weeks as theme parks throughout the state have been slowly announcing their Halloween offerings this year.
Curious, mostly, over how events that rely heavily on “in your face scares” can survive and adapt in a world where a pandemic rages on, and where social distancing is still prominent. The parks have so far been mum on what modifications their Halloween festivities will have in light of Covid-19 and its variants. Will plexiglass separate the monsters from the guests? Will capacity inside mazes be extremely limited, therefore requiring reservations? We should find out more this month.

But most of all, I’m excited to see the return of my favorite theme park events of the year. It gives me goosebumps to see the teaser videos coming from Knott’s Berry Farm, and to see promotional materials announcing monster hiring events.
Here’s what we know so far. This information was accurate as of late August, so check with your favorite park’s website for cancellations and other information before attending.

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Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
No Halloween announcements so far from our local seaside park. But remember, you can experience the scares year-round at the Fright Walk, a walk-through attraction upgraded in 2017 that features some wild special effects and an unnerving atmosphere.

Gilroy Gardens
Expect to see the return of day and night Halloween events at the gardens in October. Live musical shows, trick-or-treating, the “Boo Train” and other spooky festivities are a staple of this family-friendly event.

California’s Great America
Halloween Haunt is back after last year’s hiatus, running select nights from Sept. 24 to Oct. 31. Full details have yet to be announced, but the park has hinted at the return of such mazes as Backwoods and the lights-off Wax Museum experience, where a small, too-dim flashlight is your only way to navigate the creepy labyrinth. Want to be a monster this year? Check out the various positions that the park is now hiring: bit.ly/3j3MNpK.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Magic Mountain
Fright Fest opens Sept. 11 at Magic Mountain and Sept. 25 at Discover Kingdom, with “thrills by day” and “frights by night” through Oct. 31, the parks tease. Details are to be announced soon.

Knott’s Berry Farm
Often described as the “granddaddy of Halloween events,” Knott’s Scary Farm (my personal favorite) returns for its 48th season Sept. 16 through Oct. 31. The Southern California theme park will be transformed with eight mazes (one of which is new), four new shows (for a total of six) and five scare zones (including a new experience).

Universal Studios Hollywood
Halloween Horror Nights is back on select nights from Sept. 9 to Oct. 31, with eight haunted mazes.

Rising through the ranks
Theme park jobs offer a great opportunity for career growth, and we recently saw another example at the Boardwalk.

Omid Aminifard, who began his 36-year theme park career as a park host at SeaWorld San Diego, was promoted to general manager and vice president of the Boardwalk in August.

He joined the Boardwalk as the director of Arcades and Attractions in 2000, and six years later was promoted to director of Boardwalk Operations. Prior to his most recent promotion, he was vice president of Boardwalk Operations.

“I enjoy the varied and unique challenges of an open-gate amusement park,” Aminifard said. “We have developed an outstanding team of dedicated and caring professionals who understand the importance of delivering world-class guest and employee experience.”

The Boardwalk is always hiring. To view available jobs, visit beachboardwalk.com/Jobs.

Save the Dates
The Boardwalk’s Fall Girl Scout Overnight takes place Oct. 1-2, followed by the Fall Scout Overnight on Oct. 8-9. Registration ends later in September. To register, visit beachboardwalk.com/events.

Professional and amateur chefs will face off for the title of Best Chili at the Boardwalk’s annual Chili Cook-Off on Oct. 23. The registration deadline for competitors is Oct. 18. A portion of the proceeds from Tasting Kit sales will benefit Your Future is Our Business, which provides work-based learning opportunities to elementary, middle and high school students as well as internships for post-secondary students within Santa Cruz County. For information, visit beachboardwalk.com/Chili-Cook-Off.

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