Behind The Screams: SCarowinds Begins To Take Shape
The calendar has officially turned to September, which marks the end of the “regular” season of daily operation for most regional parks around the United States. However, as summer days give way to brisk autumn nights, it means we are officially almost inside of “haunt” season.
However, parks don’t transform overnight as they prepare for Halloween, as it often takes several weeks of preparation. Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to go “Behind the Screams” at Carowinds as the park prepares for their 2019 Edition of “SCarowinds” Halloween Haunt. Here’s a little of what we saw!
The Great Pumpkin Fest
We’ll actually start with a little of Carowinds’ “family-friendly” day-time Halloween entertainment, which comes in the form of the Great Pumpkin Fest. While the Great Pumpkin Fest is largely concentrated in the area around Camp Snoopy, there will be added day-time entertainment across the park, and set-up had started for some of these areas.
Inside of Dead Man’s Landing, haunted by pirates by night, the new Ahoy! The Buccaneer Challenge Game Show will take place during the day. This family game show will feature larger-than-life props and physical competitions designed for “moms, dads, lads and lassies.”
In Blue Ridge Junction, the Halloween Hootenanny will be taking place during the Great Pumpkin Fest. The Hootenanny promises fall-tastic games and activities, along with DJ Hoot ‘N’ Holler playing tunes for cutting a rug on the midway!
If you enjoy the dancing of the Halloween Hootenanny, but not the loud music, head over to Big Ben’s Boogie Down in Fleet Street, where there will be a “Silent Disco” with a DJ transmitting the hottest tunes through wireless headphones!
Over near Blood Yard, in the Thrill Zone, the students of Meat Cleaver High will take part in the Meat Cleaver High Pep Rally. This troupe of “spirits with spirit” includes a deadhead drumline, cheerleaders and more! This isn’t the only appearance from Meat Cleaver High however, as the Great Pumpkin Fest will also play host to “Haunted Homecoming” in Harmony Hall, a retro rock revue.
Elsewhere at the Great Pumpkin Fest, many of the activities that previously took place at Camp Snoopy are moving to the area formerly that formerly hosted Dinosaurs Alive as part of the Great Pumpkin Fest Activity Trail. Now the dinosaurs are officially extinct, the Great Pumpkin Fest is able to expand into that area with family-friendly games, a challenge course, corn maze, hay bale maze, pumpkin patch, and so much more. This was still in the pre-construction stages during our visit.
Preparing The Scares
As day turns to night, the Great Pumpkin Fest will make way for something far more sinister, as SCarowinds takes over the midways. With five mazes and eight scare zones this year, not to mention five shows, this year of SCarowinds could be the scariest Halloween at Carowinds yet. We had the opportunity to see preparations well underway inside several of SCarowinds’ scare zones, as well as inside two of the returning mazes: Dark Harvest and Slaughter House.
The following serves as a dual purpose: a spoiler alert and a warning. We’re going inside of several SCarowinds mazes in this photo update. If you prefer to be surprised at SCarowinds, turn back now. If you are easily offended or made squeamish by fake blood, guts and gore, there will probably be some of that too. SCarowinds is largely considered to be a PG-13 event. You have been warned!
Tucked back behind Copperhead Strike is SCarowinds’ lone outdoor maze, Dark Harvest. According to SCarowinds lore, “Recent construction in the area has put a strain on our area’s cornfields. Varmints, pests and wondering guests have started making their way into the maize – spreading their filth amongst the husk.”
Dark Harvest will be the beneficiary of a new route through the maze this year, which will improve the overall guest experience.
Walls were up, ready to become the labyrinth of a maze.
It felt oddly quiet while walking through the partially completed maze. I’m sure these “ears” heard all though.
Walking through a maze in the daylight provides details that I’ve never noticed while walking through in darkness/dusk, even a set piece as large as this wood chipper.
More props, ready to be placed.
Granny Byrd, is that you?
Not trying to sound “catty,” but something seemed “fishy” about the boathouse scene.
A quick look at the final show scene, which had some “guests” waiting outside, ready to be placed in the maze.
New Scare Zone: Outlaw’s Revenge
From Dark Harvest, we headed to the “Old West,” in the form of one of three new scare zones this year: Outlaw’s Revenge. This scare zone is located in front of Boo Blasters on Boo Hill, centered around the Crossroads Gazebo. If “sliders” (and we’re not talking small hamburgers) are one of your favorite parts of Halloween, Outlaw’s Revenge will likely be one of your favorite scare zones this year.
A facade has been built around the gazebo itself, and serves two purposes, as a hotel from one side, and a saloon on the other.
There were several other set pieces installed, including a gallows, jail, and wagon. The wagon was located in a fenced off area, which will likely provide great interactions between actors and guests.
I was told that these Livery doors will open, but were closed during our visit, and in peeking through a crack, it was empty. Only time will tell what could live inside!
New Scare Zone: Age of Darkness
The Medieval scare zone, Age of Darkness, had just begun its preparations during our visit. The castle walls will narrow the path underneath Nighthawk significantly, while providing a little extra hiding space behind the spires. I can’t wait to see how this looks when finished.
Fleet Street returns, occupying its usual home near Harmony Hall and Intimidator. Of the scare zones we visited, it seemed the most “complete.” Like other things about SCarowinds, it’s great to see some details of the area in the daylight.
New Scare Zone: Grave Walkers
The third new scare zone at SCarowinds, Grave Walkers, will be located in the Carolina Boardwalk. Set pieces were starting to be moved into place, and even during our visit, we were told that some of the gravestones are monuments had appeared seemingly overnight.
There’s a great attention paid to detail in Grave Walkers, from the coloring of the monuments, to the statues, and even the multicolored “moss” on the gravestones.
Many of the shipping containers of Blood Yard have made their way back to the thrill zone, but several props are in different locations than past years.
I love the “Easter Eggs” on these shipping containers, like this homage to Carowinds’ VP/GM Pat Jones.
Dead Man’s Landing
After their debut last year, the Pirates of Dead Man’s Landing are back to pillage and plunder SCarowinds. Many of the set pieces were installed, with some final details still needed to be complete.
I bet it takes a skele-ton of precision to piece together this fountain.
Something I found interesting was the the second floor of these buildings is all a facade. They do not have a functional backstage area on the second level.
Arrrrgh you ready for SCarowinds? We are!
Slaughter House: The Final Cut
The last stop on our tour was a “lights-on” walk-through of Slaughterhouse: The Final Cut. If you’re unfamiliar with Red Ribbon Meats, there is a very lengthy (and possibly disturbing) backstory on the SCarowinds’ website.
The tour begins while walking through the cattle fence en route to Red Ribbon Meats. At night, the lights on this sign flicker, and a vertical word is formed, starting with the “D” in “Red.” (I’m not going to spell it out for you!)
We then entered the butcher counter. Though 99% of guests will not notice the level of detail in the darkness and fog that accompanies the maze during SCarowinds, there is an enormous amount of detail in this first scene.
When you can appreciate the “double” meaning some of these signs have, or the occasional extra punctuation (rib, eye), it adds an entirely new level to the story.
As we enter the inner-workings of the butcher shop itself, that’s where the blood and guts begin. (Again, you were warned.)
This is like an entirely new maze with the lights on, with no scare actors or effects working, it’s still incredibly eerie.
First picture: What the guest sees – an actor being chopped up with a giant table saw. Second picture: What the guest might not see: A hidden door where the actor can crawl into the set piece.
Blood, guts, and gore.
There is a button to the right of this truck front that triggers a horn. It is loud. Remember that.
Another detail I’ve never noticed: this area is actually themed as a loading dock, and this is a truck that has “backed in” to be loaded. The benefit of lights!
SCarowinds begins for the Halloween Season on Friday, September 13. Friday the 13th. That date alone is terrifying in and of itself.