A Behind-the-Scenes Look at ValleySCARE 2017
A visit to the mortuary is just the start of the evening
All photos by Lianna Matt unless noted; videos by Cassie Bauman.
By Lianna Matt
You only have one more weekend to go to ValleySCARE, but you’re in good company. The last three weekends of this Halloween haunt are the busiest of the year, according to marketing director Matt McCormack. Don't worry, though; between the six haunted houses, three scare zones, fast pass, other Halloween experiences and the rides, the lines aren’t more than you would expect for an amusement park with a 40-plus-year legacy and more than 50 roller coasters and attractions.
ValleySCARE (and its family friendly counterpart, The Great Pumpkin Festival) have been hosted at Valleyfair Amusement Park in Shakopee for more than a decade. This year, the park is digging deeper into the state’s Viking past with a revamped Berserkers Unleashed maze, and they’ve added an entirely new Dark Harvest maze with shadows hiding among the corn stalks. New shows like the Demon Corps provide sparks and stunts to the night, and for a break from the scares, walk through the new Pumpkin Promenade.
The planning for the next ValleySCARE happens almost as soon as the current one ends, and just as much care goes into the creation of the 200-or-so monsters that roam the park each night. You won’t find most of these workers during the park’s regular season, but once the nights get longer and the leaves start changing, they’ll flock back to their favorite haunted amusement park. Some returning workers float around to a different attraction each season, and many stay at the same spot and recruit other prospective monsters into their group.
A typical monster night begins with a costume change and a 20-minute session with a makeup artist in the trailer nicknamed “the mortuary.” There may not be guests around here, but that doesn't have any effect on the Halloween spirit. It's everywhere, filling corners and crevices in the form of jars of eyeballs, spiderwebs and dark creatures sitting on the shelves—just for fun.
Since I arrived before ValleySCARE opened, I got to walk through the park after I visited the mortuary. Without all of the fog and the darkness (and the screaming), the tiniest details pop out. If you pay attention to the music at the Mad Mouse roller coaster, you can hear periodic, campy advertisements for high quality meats from Mr. Cleaver’s Bloodshed, one of the park's most infamous mazes. As you walk through the cemetery, you can read the staff members' names on every gravestone. Seeing The Chateau maze's Gothic accents and furniture pieces in the light was a treat; you would be amazed at how many skeletons are embedded into the interior walls.
The Chateau has been one of the mainstays for ValleySCARE, and it is the only maze that isn’t torn down after the season is done. Even though it may be tweaked from year to year, one aspect has remained the same: the butler who mans the door. Employee Todd Reutter created the role in 2006, and over the years, he has ushered in thousands of guests to the vampire lair. While I was given special permission to film The Chateau, you have to see it in person to get the horrors of the night in full effect. Even so, here's a glimpse of what awaits:
Courtesy of Cassie Bauman.