Haunted Hayride raises money for local non-profits

ghouliesLions and tigers and bears, OH MY!

Northfield’s Ninth Annual Haunted Hayride took place on Norwich University’s Disney Field October 20-22, raising $22,000 in support of several local causes. A collaboration between members of the Northfield community and Norwich University Student Life and Student Activities, the Hayride provides hair-raising entertainment every October to thousands of thrill-seekers from all over Central Vermont.

This year’s theme was “The Wicked of Oz”, a surreal take-off on the classic MGM musical, “The Wizard of Oz”, starring Judy Garland. A Haunted Hayride committee, chaired by Heidi Passalacqua and Sally Davidson of Northfield, spent ten months planning and organizing the pre-Halloween event, which involved the coordination of 276 volunteers and 16,000 man-hours of community service. This year, despite having one night cancelled due to poor weather conditions, “OZ” was visited by 2,500 paying customers, and garnered $13,000 in ticket sales and concessions.

victimsNot for the faint of heart, the seventeen-minute ride featured screaming munchkins, bloodthirsty monkeys, a hopelessly lost Glinda (the good witch of the North), an ax-happy Tin Man and other horrific variations on the “OZ” theme. Participating community groups were responsible for manning the individual entertainment stations along the route, including artistic direction, sets, costumes, props, and special effects. Many of the spectacular scenes were constructed with the skilled assistance of Northfield residents Frank Hall, Carl Underhill, Eric Pryor, and Bill Lyon, while Brian Hoar, of the Northfield Police Department, assisted the Northfield Boys and Girls Club at their site.

Northfield resident Barb Connor, whose daughters Kelsey and Erin are members of the “Step Above" Dance Studio Dance Competition Team, was in charge of “Tornado Alley” and “Munching Kids-land”, perhaps the busiest stations along the route in terms of numbers of volunteers. “We had 46 kids on our site this year, from one second-grader through seniors,” Connor said. According to Connor, the competition team members gain much more than funding from the event. “It’s a great bonding experience for the team and the parents, and also gives the dancers wonderful exposure in the community.”

ghouliesNorwich University, in addition to providing the venue, contributed much behind-the-scenes support. Alumnus Mike Rizutto ’97, of Sony Productions, donated a customized soundtrack of background sounds and special effects, mixed by former NU Communications major Marshall Lee ’03. Keeping the riders safe was the Norwich Semper Fi Society, who provided security and assistance on site, while several NU students, dressed as familiar characters from the popular 1939 film, served as guides on the customized hay wagons.

The event earned some well-deserved praise from Norwich President Richard Schneider, who came by to join in the fun, and came away very impressed with what he saw.

“The Haunted Hayride is a true collaboration between the Northfield community and Norwich University, and exemplifies the spirit of cooperation that exists here in Central Vermont,” Schneider said.

In February, the following non-profit organizations will each receive a percentage of the proceeds in return for their many hours of volunteer service: the “Step Above” Dance Studio’s Dance Competition Team, Northfield High School’s SHINE program, the Northfield Boys and Girls Club, the Northfield Police Department DARE program, the Northfield Fire Department Youth program, Norwich University Volunteer Services, Norwich University Gorilla Theater, Norwich University Fencing Club, Norwich University Tactics Club, Norwich University Semper Fi Society, Norwich University Student Life Office, Norwich University AMERICORPS, Norwich University Student Scholarships, and the Norwich University Corps of Cadets.

ghouliesThe following corporate sponsors contributed greatly to the success of the Hayride by donating funds and/or gifts in kind: UNICEL, Norwich University, The Times Argus, Froggy 100.9, TDS Telecom, TD Banknorth, CHAMP radio, and Community National Bank “Totally Kids.”

Additional community sponsors included: Northfield Savings Bank, Casella Waste Management, Wall/Goldfinder, Inc., Advantage Signs, Donna and Mark Gerders, Sodexho Food Services, Bean Chevrolet, Hed East Custom Screen printing, The Framing Edge, Tisdale Paint & Construction, Northfield Dental Group, Michael Popowski, Atty., China Star Restaurant, Cutting Loose Beauty Sjhip, South Village Mobil, Northfield Pharmacy, Depot Square Pizzeria, Chuck & Trish Brown, Magee Office plus, Rocket J’s, The Falls General Store, The Rustic Restaurant, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Winch Hill Construction, Bouyer-Fassetts Bakery, Vermont Chocolatiers, American Legion, Dennis Tyner, Green Mountain Family Practice, The Red Kettle Restaurant, Microcheck, Inc., Styles R’ Us, John Fricke and Associates, Convenience Plus Redemption, and Italian American Heritage, Inc.