Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America is actually the busiest time of the year for the amusement park, as its spokespeople tell us. Preparation for the event, starts way in advance to make sure that makeup and costumes are ready, that there are new attractions, and that everyone who attends will have a scary great time.
This year, Fright Fest includes two new haunted mazes and two new shows, for a total of six maxes and six shows. Favorite characters such as the lumberjacks, clowns, werewolves, and the Demon Overlord Nox will be on hand to interact with people and scare the pants off anyone in their way! Haunts, which take about 5-10 minutes to walk through and require an additional fee, include Big Top Terror, Infestation, The Gates of Hell, Apocalypse, Manslaughter Manor, and Massacre Medical Center.
The entire park becomes transformed for this annual Halloween extravaganza, from the blood in the pool fronting the carousel to the haunted characters and decor in every section of the park. If you like being scared, and you like roller coasters in the dark, this may be the event for you. Don’t worry, it’s family-friendly until 6 p.m. But after that, it’s bigger and more frightening than ever. This year, Fright Fest aims to be an immersive haunted experience – not for the faint-hearted, once night falls. Even the rides are scary – although for some, they always were.
But how does the park get that way? Fortunately, we got a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the park. We can tell you that preparation goes on for months. If you came to the park in August, you probably already saw some of the spooky decorations and props appearing. Fright Fest is a big deal here, and it shows in the preparations!
We got to watch a student get made up into a scary clown. Did you know that about 25 makeup people here will design 250 sets of makeup for various monsters and zombies in two hours, using 2,500 ounces of makeup and fake blood? Then a four-person crew wanders the grounds to do touch-ups throughout the night.
We also got to see the costume trailer (which is where the costumed characters hang out in the summer). There are 400 costumes here, and 425 for the shows. Some are purchased, some are re-purposed older ones, and many get treated with “blood.” Erin Baxter, the wardrobe supervisor, says that you have to consider – if something terrible really was going to happen, how would it affect the clothing?”You do have to delve into your dark side,” she notes.
Everyone gets dressed from 4:15-5:30 p.m., so the trailer is completely swamped at those times. Spot checks are done throughout the night with a costume bag that includes repair items. In between wearings, items are spray washed or washed in one of five sets of washers and dryers in the area.
After costumes are done, then makeup for most characters (except the vampires, because white makeup can get on their red coats), the fun begins. You may see Nox the Demon Overlord wandering around interacting with visitors, and of course you can enjoy all the rides. Please note: According to park rules, visitors should not wear costumes to Fright Fest, as this confuses the monsters and they start eating each other instead of the guests. Seriously, though, costumes can be a safety issue on rides.
In the end, Fright Fest is a huge endeavor to match the huge crowds that attend. That means 25 lbs. of food-grade red vegetable dye for the reflection pond, 100 flaming torches, 300 bales of hay, 25,200 stalks of corn, 4.5 tons of pumpkins, 160 yards of mulch, 1,000 gallons of fog juice, and 1,600 yards of cheese and beef cloth for spiderwebs.
The spider atop the American Eagle is named Tiny. He’s 200 lbs., and has been terrorizing roller coaster rides for 23 years. The gorilla on the Sky Trek, who was being installed as I visited, is 53 ft. tall and 600 lbs. Yikes!
Fright Fest takes place at Six Flags Great America on Fridays-Sundays through Halloween (along with 10/10 and 10/31). For tickets, rules, and more information, visit www.sixflags.com/greatamerica.