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September 28, 2012

Terror in the Wild

Wild Adventures transforms into a Halloween park

VALDOSTA — With eight scare zones, Wild Adventures is ready to embark on the largest haunted park in its recent history.

In the past, Wild Adventures has devoted a portion of the park to its annual Halloween-themed events. This year, “Terror in the Wild” leaves its prints throughout the park, says John Ancona, Wild Adventures entertainment director.

“‘Terror in the Wild’ is not your typical Halloween experience,” Ancona says of the events opening today and running from dusk to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 28. “Guests won’t find the traditional haunted houses and scares but attractions, scare zones, and themed areas to frighten the most thrill-loving guest. Wild Adventures is the area’s number one place for Halloween frights.”

To transform the friendly park into “Terror in the Wild” is a massive, all-hands-on-deck undertaking. Wild Adventures has had to make the park-wide shift to Halloween in less than a week.

“We closed Sunday and the flip began immediately,” Ancona says. “We’ve had five days to make these changes.”

To ensure the park is ready for this evening’s opening, Ancona recruited the help of the entire park’s staff. Park employees were given props, decorations, basic directions and were assigned to prepare certain areas of the park.

The maintenance department, for example, took the Carn-Evil assignment, transforming part of Wild Adventures into what looks like a wrecked amusement park. Blinking-light ride pieces litter tree limbs. Decaying stuffed animals line a shelf. Jarring electronic sounds blare and beep in discordant rhythm. Ancient freak show posters hang from twine. Ancona adds the area will be inhabited by zombie-type “scare-acters.”

Park employee Leon Swilley wanted to do something special for Terror in the Wild to show his appreciation for Wild Adventures and Herschend Family Entertainment’s personnel programs. Swilley tended an acre of corn on park grounds which is now the corn maze known as Mr. Swilley’s Field of Screams. The maze will be inhabited by more “scare-acters.”

As will the Zombie Crash, a car-wreck scenario which visitors will discover as they turn one corner of the park ... at least during the evenings.

Ancona and Micha Hogan, the park’s public relations manager, emphasize that most of these elements will not occur until dusk and they strongly discourage children under 12 from participating in most of these evening scare zones.

During the day, however, children and families can enjoy the Kid-O-Ween activities which include a hay-bale maze, Count Rockula’s Dance Party, trick-or-treat sites, a kids crafts station, Monty’s Magical Pumpkin Forest, etc.

For older more daring souls, Wild Adventures offers a map to show which areas are themed, which ones are character walk-through areas, and which attractions are “high scare” featuring live actors.

Lonestar BBQ has been transformed into Hagatha’s Barbecue, still an eatery featuring a live Hagatha performer presenting magic tricks and more.

High-scare attractions include Zombie Crash, the safari train being transformed into the Ghost Train, Mr. Swilley’s Field of Screams, and the main attraction “Ashkra: Plague of the Witch.”

This mammoth attraction takes guests through the park’s snaking Alapaha Trail, which is creepy enough at dusk on a regular evening. With “Terror in the Wild,” the trail begins with a tunnel taking visitors back to the European witch hunts of the late 15th century.

Developed by Mike Inks and Andy Spolyar, “Ashkra” features witches battling plague doctors battling knights. Teeming with live actors who have spent the past week training for today’s opening night, visitors will encounter these beings and creatures at various turns and in tableaus of torture and terror.

At a Glance

Wild Adventures presents its annual Halloween attractions: Terror in the Wild, which is for older visitors and not recommended for youngsters under 12, begins after dusk through 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; Kid-O-Ween, which includes family-friendly attractions during the daylight hours, Saturdays and Sundays. These events last today and weekends through Oct. 28. More information: Call (229) 219-7080; or visit www.wildadventures.com.

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