Haunted playground event 2016

  With the usual crew from Martin's Pond taking time off from presenting the annual Haunt event, a different group took up the reins this year.  Friends of Hornet, the local middle-school boosters, saw the opportunity to engage their students and parents in a similarly large-scale production, using much of same props and equipment and supplying more of their own, and adding some fresh twists to the event.

This icon is the overall mascot for the town's school sports, with a couple of extra details added by the Friends.  It was somewhat ironic that during the run-up to all this, I was battling a nest of yellow jackets that had taken up residence under my leaf compost pile.

[Images are "clickable", linked to larger copies.  The text contains several links to chase, too]
Planning map of school field layout The original thought was to continue holding it in the Park, but later it was decided to move the whole event to the middle-school field across town.  This would give a little more overall space, and an environment which more of the new crew were familiar with. And maybe a different perspective on public visibility, given that the school sits at a major crossroads in what amounts to the center of town.

Most of the old crew was content to not be involved in the new project, but the new crew wanted to consult with me about power and lighting.  I sent them links to my old writeups from last year and '14 and beyond, which they found quite useful and likely took some ideas from.  I sat in on one of the planning meetings, where they had kind of a sketchy concept of a layout, and we outlined a few details they needed to check on or verify with the school.  A few days later they sent this annotated google-maps screengrab.  The viewpoint is as if you were floating above the middle-school roof, and lays out their general plan pretty well. 

  The model for how the event would get set and run was very similar -- numbered tour batches with guides, skit tents, games, a pumpkin patch, and the "scary section" near the end with an optional bypass route.  As well as an extensive food area, side entertainment from magicians and DJs, and access to the playground.  Having a visual layout map would allow a little power-path planning to have minimal wiring across traffic areas.  A brief night-time survey revealed two major dark areas that weren't covered very well by existing streetlights -- the playground off the lower left of the picture, and the midfield area near the food tents and its tables.  So I'd be doing some bit of area lighting as usual.

The ideal point to light the playground from would have been from the roof of the school building at that corner, with lights clipped to a cinderblock or something like I'd done on the park-building.  But the building super nixed that idea, citing "safety reasons".  Seriously??  I've probably been on more roofs in my lifetime than he has...  Instead, I placed myself at *greater* risk by getting way up on a ladder to bind a group of lights as high as I could to one of the streetlight poles around the driveway.  It actually worked out okay either way; three of my big CFLs were able to add just enough visibility light over a broad area that it helped, even at the non-optimally long distance.

A little bit of preliminary setup happened Friday night, but the group couldn't get access to the field before 5pm anyway so we were there setting up a few pop-ups in the dark and cold.  Build began in earnest early Saturday morning.

Pop-up turned turtle in an attempt to repair a leg There were a *lot* of pop-up canopies, brought in from various sources.  Most of them got tarps attached underneath to make sides in the traditional manner.  A little mid-day wind kicked up and apparently dragged a couple of them enough to mangle the legs.  Once they're raised to full height they have very little side-load strength, especially when not staked or weighted down.  The crew here had upended one of them in an attempt to fix it; one of them got bodged back together but on another one the leg broke completely off, and I think that frame sat the event out and something else replaced it.  To my knowledge there weren't any other construction disasters overall, and there was quite a bit of building going on.

Row of black pop-ups being set up The function of the old "graveyard" walls would be provided by a row of more pop-up tents.  I hadn't seen all-black ones like this before; they're interesting, with their own sidewall pieces and an opaque silvered lining on the inside that blocks ambient light.  Perhaps designed for photography?

Several of the old MPA props were in evidence -- that old coffin refuses to die, so to speak.  Even the old clanky "monster shipping box" had returned.  The new crew had free access to the old storage trailer, so none of this was a surprise.

Exit tunnel construction One final bit of tour creepiness would be found in a spiderwebbed exit tunnel from the "haunted tour" graveyard-substitute area, constructed from garden arbors or something.

A study in zip-ties, volunteerism, and coffee As usual, much of the infrastructure was held together with zip-ties.  Here's a friend I brought along to help, who wound up working assembly of the long black "fence extender" cloth around the perimeter and came up with interesting ways to hold a batch of zip-ties ready at hand.  A study in on-the-fly utility, clueful volunteerism, and the importance of coffee.

The organizers *did* supply lots of wire cutters, which is the safe way to remove zip-ties without slicing your own wrists open.

Spike toss for positioning The commercial tent-rental guys showed up around noon and started their deployment.  They had a fun method of initially setting the rope spikes in position -- eyeball the right place and just whip one into the ground.  Seemed to work really well.

In the background is Ryer's Store, a popular local feature.  I've never actually been in there, and today didn't have time to pop over to see if they're barefoot-friendly or not.

Magician stage setup Jim the magician came again, and his stage has clearly undergone a bit of spiff-up with new artwork.  He's also changed over to much more energy-efficient lights.  His daughter came along to help with the show, and spun fire poi as part of it.  We had a fun convo about spinning and barefooting and various other things.

Inflatables going up Somewhere around mid-day people started needing power, to test lights and toys like this inflatable.  At least *three* generators had been brought in as power for along the outer fence line, and my big inverter would handle some of the things up closer to the driveway as an isolated and much quieter power source.

The field only has ONE 15A "shore power" circuit available, located at the wrong end, so a large quantity of auxiliary power was definitely needed.  Some effort was made to erect little temporary foam noise-barrier enclosures around the generators; the rear side of one can just barely be seen behind the inflatable here but I didn't get a clear shot of them.

Typical stretch job on electric cables There was the usual amount of electrical hookup done by inexperienced people, somewhat highlighted here -- typical stretching of cords across open space and no strain relief, risking things disconnecting themselves at inconvenient moments.  Stuff like this really should be a no-brainer to wire more correctly, especially when there's extra cable right there in the bundle.  Most of the wiring between the black "tour" tents was spidered in similarly scary ways between them, but all managed to hold together.

Yes, I'm going to keep harping on this until people start getting a better working clue about it.

Chaos of gear and props dump By early afternoon there had been a lot of progress, but there were still several chaotic dumps of gear and supplies here and there and many people didn't seem to know what items had landed where.  A good amount of this one didn't get used, and had to be compacted away behind the wall under a tarp for the live event.

Food tents getting set up The food-tent setup was coming together, under a big spread of tents with a couple of extra tents behind the main row for supplies. 

Signage for this event was top-notch; one of the head people works as a graphic designer as her day-job and has access to fairly high-end printing and foam-cutting equipment.

Pumpkin patch The pumpkin patch had come together *very* well, at least in daylight, and the hay bales and crates added a nice rural touch.  And ... a Tardis??  Not what I'd expect to find in a pumpkin field, but hey, you never know where a Tardis is going to materialize.

( Whooom,  whooom,  whooom,  whooom,  whooom ...   )

Stringing path delimiters A lot of work, not to mention fenceposts, went into stringing guide lines to direct visitors along the right routes through the field.  The posts were the "step-in" type, with a metal spike at the bottom and a foot pad for easy one-push installation as long as no rocks were encountered.  This field is pretty soft with a thick layer of mostly rock-free fill, so this all went in reasonably easily.

Installing set flats The old MPA set flats largely weren't used, with the FoHP crew choosing to make new ones out of simple 4x8 XPS insulation boards without any frames.  It seemed to all go in okay; I did not actually take note of how they were held upright inside the big tents. 

Haunted tour tent sets Haunted tour tent sets
The black-tent sets had come together nicely and were pretty much ready to run.  Between them they had *four* small Chauvet fog-machines, at a little under 500 watts apiece.  Good thing we were feeding all of this with a fairly beefy generator, despite the racket...

Volunteer/staff briefing, using DJ system The DJ arrived and got himself set up in short order; he clearly does this all the time so he didn't need help other than maybe repositioning his pop-up over the table.  I ran his power from an outlet in the school building, since he wanted something nice and stable and wasn't sure what his peak load would be. At around 5pm more volunteers started flooding into the area; people who were going to help out with event runtime.  The event coordinators used the DJ's PA system to hold a big orientation meeting for everyone.

Another member of the "old guard" was also present -- Mike would be doing MC announcements and calling tour group numbers, just like always.

Prius power-supply placement Many volunteers milled around up near the ticket tables and where I'd placed the car, handy-ish to feed the cluster of lights halfway up the streetlight pole.  It wasn't anywhere near dark enough to see what effect they would have, but at least the ticket-sellers would have a decent amount of light to see their transactions.

  Referring to the map -- at my position near the point of the brick area I wound up feeding power to those lights, the games tent and photo booth, and one or two other things tapped off from there.  This kept most of my own gear deployment contained near me, making it easier to collect at the end of the event.  I was completely out of there by late Saturday night, which was excellent as I had signed up for a fun hike the next day.

Area panorama 1 Area panorama 2 Area panorama 3 Area panorama 4 Area panorama 5 Area panorama 6
To get a better overview of the event as it started to kick into gear, I got up on the ladder and shot a sort of pseudo-panorama about 180 degrees around.  [Each pic expands to a big one.]  The sea of orange shirts is all volunteers.

Nice sun-dog toward sunset Blue and orange sunset
Shortly before sunset a noticeable sun dog appeared [over the U-Haul truck], with typical chromatic separation, and later segued into a colorful twilight.  The air was quite crisp, and we knew it was going to get pretty chilly later.  Night-sky radiation is quite the interesting phenomenon...

Early mob around games-tent The games area was already mobbed, and stayed that way most of the evening.

Getting another inflatable going Even as the event officially started, there were still things to get done -- bringing another inflatable upright, firing up any generators that weren't running yet, and lots of quick cleanup.

Set with pumpkin flats Some debugging was needed; it took a bit to get power to the sound system in this tent but we found and removed a bum extension cord in the process.

This was one of the three sets in the big tents.  I have to confess, the quality of artwork on most of these was a step up from our "redneck set design" efforts from previous years. 

Singing group rehearsal Some of the singing groups were still rehearsing as tours started to get organized.

Play-reading rehearsal Other groups presented short plays.

I didn't get to really go through all the "skit tents" to see what they were doing; it wasn't necessarily one thing per; I believe multiple groups were rotating in and out doing different things.  Hopefully someone else captured all those details.

  In fact, I spent a good bit of the runtime spinning the better LED staff to provide even more entertainment for the folks passing by or waiting in the tour line. That was fun; the movement also kept me warmer as the night chill settled in and I wasn't doing much else other than occasional walkarounds to check on things.

Exit tunnel surrounded by fog The little bit of breeze was in the perfect direction to let the fog from the tour-tent row drift out and along the path over the exit tunnel, making the whole area nicely spooky.  The kids staffing the tents were clearly having a *blast* with it.

All told about 800 people bought tour tickets, and there were probably quite a few more than that on the site over the course of the evening.  In general, quite a successful event -- with little differences brought by "new blood" that can help the whole thing beneficially evolve.

_H*   161019