Saunders Farm keeping the spirits of Halloween alive during COVID-19
OTTAWA -- There were fears from parents and trick-or-treaters that Halloween might not go on as usual this year following comments earlier this month from Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health.
"If normal means going door to door and touching things that other people have touched. I think we’re going to have to be creative," Dr. Vera Etches said during an interview with CTV Morning Live Aug. 20 when asked if Halloween could see some sort of normalcy this fall due to COVID-19.
That’s what Mark Saunders, Director of Fun at Saunders Farm, has been up to this summer, getting creative with their annual Haunting Season. A staple of the fall season in the Ottawa region, Haunting Season at Saunders Farm attracts thousands to their haunted houses, hay rides, and fright nights.
Saunders made the decision to carry on the Halloween tradition despite the COVID-19 hurdles due to the overwhelming demand.
"They’re like please don’t cancel Halloween, please don’t cancel Halloween," says Saunders. "We see the light in people’s eyes, like thank you so much for just doing something that is normal to us, something that is a tradition to us."
Despite having a farm 35 acres in size, Saunders says there will be just 100 people on site at a time, operating at a capacity of just five to 10 per cent. "It’s going to be a tight year for us overall. But at least we’re able to open, I know many businesses aren’t," says Saunders.
Those looking to attend Haunting Season can begin booking their time slots online starting Sept. 3. Up to 30 visitors can book into the staggered 15-minute slot start times, to allow groups time to space out around the farm.
Rather than wandering between attractions, guests will now tour the haunted attractions on a planned route, which Saunders estimates will take 45 minutes. The route will end at the farm’s newly created patio where guests sit to enjoy food, drinks, and entertainment.
Not all of the farm’s attractions will be open this year either, "we normally have six," says Saunders, "But this year we’re only opening three because they’re all open air.”
One of the most popular attractions, the haunted hay ride will still be part of the tour.
"The hay ride itself, when we normally put 35 people on a wagon, we’re looking at about 12-15 depending on how big your group is,” said Saunders.
Visitors will also have to wear a mask while touring the attractions. Despite all the changes due to COVID-19, Saunders believes the muffled screams behind the masks will still be there.
"I think people are really going to love it and I also know that people just want to have a live, in person experience."