Haunting season is upon us, friends! This time of year is fantastic because there are more Halloween and harvest-themed events than you can shake a stick at happening in parks and at other places around the Triangle and beyond. Last Sunday, Peter went to the 16th annual Haunting at Harris, and once again, had a great time at a local park enjoying the free activities they offered. Here are a few quick facts about Haunting at Harris:
Location: Harris Lake County Park, 2112 County Park Drive, New Hill, NC 27562
A little bit about the park: From a pamphlet about the park, "This 680-acre park forms a peninsula on beautiful Harris Lake. Enjoy the sights and smells of the native plant garden, take a ride on the Hog Run Mountain Bike Trail, play a round of disc golf with friends, spend a quiet afternoon fishing or hold a family gathering at one of the shelters."
A little bit about the event: From the WakeGov website, "Join us to celebrate the fall moon! During a full moon in October, the mystical powers of the moon are revealed in many ways, so be on the lookout for live scarecrows, werewolves and more! Take a wagon ride to help collect all the pieces from the broken moon so it can rise again. We will explore full moon folklore, stories and creepy critters galore! At the shelters, play games, create crafts, enjoy fun activities and meet live animals."
Activities and features: Spooky hayride with a story about moon folklore, many crafts options, obstacle courses, carnival-style games.
Food options: It did not appear that there was much in the way of food. We saw a small tent selling snacks, like chips and candy, as a fundraiser for a community center in New Hill, but other than that, no food. It is possible, though, that the lack of food was because the event was rainy. The map of the event at the information table had "Food Concessions" listed on it, so it is possible they were planning to have more food but didn't due to the weather.
Parking: Parking was interesting and was another thing that was affected by the weather. Parking was set up in an large open field and visitors were not allowed to park in the normal parking lots by the event. There was then a sign for a "Walking Path" through the woods to the event. This would have all made sense if the weather was fine and it was a normal turn out - which we heard was about 2,000 people last year. However, with the rain, there was no one out there directing parking or indicating where you should go - if it was busy, it would have been easy to just follow the line of people, but there was no one, so it was a bit confusing about if we were on the right path. Also, BEWARE, the walking path to get to the event was through the woods and was NOT stroller friendly. We later discovered that path is normally a mountain biking path, which explained why the turns banked in many areas. Lastly, it was a little disheartening to get to the event and see wide open parking lots with almost no cars where people easily could have parked due to the low turn out. It would have been nice if that change could have been made on the fly to let people park in those lots, but we understand why that did not happen.
Overall experience: Things started out a little rocky for us with this event, but by the end, we were happy we came.
As you might have read in the parking section above, when we pulled into the parking area, it was a big empty field. There were actually more cars by the field entrance than near the path we needed to take to get to the event, which was all the way on the other side of the field. No one was really directing things or indicating where we should be going, but thankfully we drove around the field a bit and found the "Walking Path" sign. Now, of course, things would have been a lot easier if this was a normal day with no rain, because then we could have followed the crowds, but with no crowds, no one directing traffic, and nothing on the "Walking Path" sign indicating it was a walking path TO THE EVENT (you're at a park, there are many walking paths - is this the one we needed to be on to get to the event?) it was a unclear what we should be doing and where we should be going.
At this point we see the walking path sign and decide to follow it - the path literally had elevated, banked turns for mountain bikes, as well as many roots and plants popping up out of the path. Not ideal for strollers, or small toddlers for that matter. We eventually started seeing signs that said, "EVENT" with arrows, so at least we finally had some indication we were headed in the right direction. After a while on the path, and actually passing one other family with a stroller who were also having problems, we finally made it to the event. Our first stop was the information booth, which seemed to have a group of teenagers manning it who were not very helpful. (We really hate to say stuff like that, but they just weren't. There was a sign at the booth that said something along the lines of, "Ask us about the junior naturalist program." and no one there could even tell us what it was except that the person who would know had just walked away.) So now we have 1.rainy, 2. not ideal parking situation, and 3. a no information info booth.
Things started to look up, though, as we began exploring the event itself. There were 2 separate pavilions with a number of crafts, including pine cone spiders, phases of the moon crafts, bat origami, and making corn stalks out of paper bags. One pavilion also had a number of taxidermy animals, as well as lots of other creepy crawlies to learn about. There was an obstacle course, as well as a variety of other carnival-type games - a bean-bag toss into a big pumpkin cutout, pin the nose on the witch, etc. Once you got out into the park, there were plenty of fun activities to keep kids entertained and all of the volunteers at those stations were very helpful. We had a great time with some high school volunteers, who loved Peter, and helped us make a pine cone spider.
The absolute highlight of the event, though, was the folklore hayride. We had the opportunity to speak with the volunteer who was distributing tickets for the ride and she told us that normally, this event as a whole draws about 2,000 people, and that tickets for the hayride in particular (which is free, but they have tickets to keep track of the number of people) go very quickly. Our ride was at 4:00pm and she said that those would have been gone by 1:30 on a normal day.
The hayride wasn't just a ride where everyone got in the back of a truck and got driven around - there was a whole folklore-based back story that we had lost the moon and our group needed to go through the woods searching for the pieces of the moon to return them to a special person who could put the moon back together so it could rise again. As we drove through the woods and made the stops, creepy creatures popped out at us, we met witches and other mythical creatures, and it was even a little scary at times (one of the guys had a chain saw - no chain on obviously, but the sound those things make is scary enough). Overall, though, it was a lot of fun - corny, yes, but you could definitely tell the kids on the ride were enjoying it and the parents were joking with each other, too. And yes, we collected all our pieces and the moon rose again!
We ended up heading out after the hayride, but did manage to stop at the information booth again, where we were able to speak to a Wake County parks employee, who was very helpful and able to tell us about the junior naturalist program. The program is actually a challenge for kids ages 4 to 15, that encourages them to get out, visit and have experiences at our local parks. Junior naturalists get pins for completing certain park programs and a Wake County Parks daypack after the entire junior naturalist challenge is completed. Peter is still a little young, but we will definitely be enrolling him in the future. If you are interested in those program, you can find more information about it here.
As we said at the beginning, our visit for this event had a literal rocky start, but it was worth it in the end. Peter is looking forward to attending this event next year and seeing if there really is a 2,000-person turn out!