A surge of late volunteers have saved Halloween at Pine Bluff’s Delta Rivers Nature Center, where the 11th annual Boo on the Bayou event was raised from near death, Eric Maynard said Friday night.
Maynard, the state facility’s director, said that on Monday he was fearful the Friday and Saturday activity might have to be curtailed because only about five volunteers had made their services available.
“I was afraid I was going to have to announce it had been canceled,” Maynard said of the attraction that typically draws a total of about 2,500 participants of all ages and requires up to 70 volunteers per night.
But the trick, it turned out, was on Maynard as a number of organizations delivered a treat by helping to yield the necessary numbers of volunteers.
“That’s the hardest. most stressful part of preparing for this event each year,” Maynard. said “Many of the volunteers didn’t sign up until Wednesday or Thursday.”
Maynard said he’s thankful that they’re on board, and judging by the squeals and laughter of attendees as they crept through a half-mile “haunted trail,” appreciation for the volunteers was widespread.
A pair of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Honors College co-eds — LaDonna Branch and Kiah Ferrell, both 19 and from Earle — were donating their services in a community outreach effort. Their task? Hiding and screaming beneath a trail bridge, sounding an air horn and shaking brush to frighten those passing over the structure.
“We’re having fun and meeting a lot of people,” said Ferrell.
“We will definitely be back next year,” pledged Branch.
Justin Kell, 21, and his friend Anthony Christian, 26, were serving in similar capacities along with Kell’s mother, Janet Kell. All are Sheridan residents. The Kells are nine-year trail veterans. Christian, like Branch and Ferrell, is a rookie.
“We just love this,” Justin Kell said. “We can scare the biggest, toughest guys around and make them scream like little girls. I’m a nice guy and don’t usually do stuff like this, but once a year I get to scare the crap out of people. And I like it.”
In addition to the terrifying track, offerings include assorted animal-themed games such as “Dead Duck Ringers” and inflatable bounce devices to entertain children. Maynard’s wife — White Hall School District art teacher Susie James Maynard — was lending her talents as a face painter. Elsewhere, other volunteers were in costume as witches, ghosts, goblins and assorted superheroes and villains.
Dana Barker of White Hall was accompanying her children, 12-year-old C.J. Barker and 16-year-old Destiny Birdsong, and her 1-year-old granddaughter, Skylar Birdsong. Skylar — disguised as a bee — wasn’t buzzing with excitement, but seemed pleased with the event, even without her missing “antennas.”
Three-year-old Brayden White and his parents, Zach White and Rachel Henderson of Pine Bluff, said they were prepared for any Halloween creatures they might encounter. Brayden was portraying Wolfman, sporting a hairy mask and matching sleeves.
Commercial carrier Felicia Linnell was sharing the occasion with her daughter, 19-year-old Candra Linnell, and 3-year-old son Kalin Rose, who was grunting at passersby while wearing a Hulk outfit.
“I’m glad the nature center does this,” said the elder Linnell. “It’s great family fun and it’s free.”
Boo on the Bayou resumes from 6-9 p.m. today.