October has arrived and brought no shortage of spooky, socially distanced events in its wake. Here are some of the most wholesome and harrowing happenings in the Gainesville area to get anyone in the Halloween spirit.
In treat-filled fashion, Gainesville Church of God is hosting its annual Buy a Pumpkin Feed a Child campaign. Attendees can treat themselves to a pumpkin patch, concessions like pumpkin bread and fall-themed activities. These include a barrel cart train, slides and several photo ops with the Mystery Machine from “Scooby-Doo,” Tow Mater from “Cars” and a tractor.
Taking place at 7003 NW 39th Ave.until the end of October, its Monday to Friday hours are from 1 to 8 p.m., while Saturday and Sunday hours range from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. respectively, according to the event’s website.
One hundred percent of the event’s proceeds will go to feeding children in need, said Joshua Lounsbury, an associate pastor at the church. The program began in 2014 to support the church’s efforts to feed hungry children in Guatemala and Venezuela. He said profits go to feeding about 750 kids internationally on a weekly basis.
Volunteers wear masks, and activities are routinely sanitized, he said. According to the campaign’s Facebook page, masks are encouraged but not required for attendees.
When deciding whether or not to hold the event at all this year, Lounsbury said the church thought of the kids depending on them and decided to faithfully go through with it while creating a safe atmosphere for families.
“There is no other help,” he said. “There’s no other hope. We are the only people that are able to step in and make a difference.”
Alachua’s Pumpkin Patchalso decided to persevere through the pandemic. Pumpkin lovers can gorge on gourds with options like pumpkin bread and Joyful Java coffee, tractor rides and a hay maze, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Hosted by the First United Methodist Church of Alachua, the patch is located at 15710 NW U.S. Highway 441 and is open Monday to Friday from 2 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. this month.
Coon Hollo Farm’s Fall Festival is set to help people fall in love with the season’s foliage by offering a sunn hemp maze and sunflower picking, according to the farm’s website. Located at 22480 N. U.S. Highway 441 in Micanopy, pony rides, cow feeding and farm animals are present to ensure animal lovers don’t feel left out, either.
Other activities like a sack slide, pasture putt-putt and a country carousel are complemented by concessions and a country store. According to a Facebook post, activities are socially distanced with regular sanitation.
The festival is open Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 7 p.m. until Nov. 8. Tickets can be purchased at the farm’s entrance gate or in advance on its website for $10, and children ages 3 and under enter free, according to its Facebook page.
Those looking for more variety can reserve their weekends for the Roger’s Farm Fall Festival, which offers eye-grabbing activities like animal petting, duck races, a spooky trail, a corn cannon and a foam machine, featured on the farm’s Facebook page.
Taking place at 3831 NW 156th Ave., the festival features new activities and vendors in line with social distancing to make up for some traditional activities being unavailable this year, according to the event page.
Admission costs $10 per person and is free for children ages 2 and under, and the festival is open from 5 to 10 p.m. on Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Halloween will have special hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for anyone seeking a trick-or-treating alternative.
People willing to venture into the darkest depths the season has to offer can visit the Peanut Patch and Corn Maze at 8656 SW 75th St., which features a haunted house, hayride and corn maze at nightfall.
Activities like bounce houses, a golf course, human hamster balls and pony rides are not being offered this year due to COVID-19, said event owner Crystal Hassell. However, she said family-oriented events like a barrel train and hayride are available before dark.
The attractions are open Fridays from 5 to 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 to 11 p.m. until Oct. 31, according to a Facebook post. Admission costs $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 10 and under and is free for kids ages 3 and under.
The event is held on 80 acres of land, so Hassell said she’s not worried about maintaining social distancing, though it is recommended. As for cleanliness, she said there are several handwashing stations available at stops like the ticket booth. Masks are mandatory.
The event was first started in 2017, according to its website. With most people already living in a 2020 horror flick, Hassell said she thought it was necessary to make the attractions available this year.
“We love doing it,” she said. “We thought it’d be nice for the public to be able to do something because we’ve all been cooped up for months.”
Anyone left unphased can enter the Newberry Cornfield Maze. With its tagline, “...laugh by day… SCREAM by night,” it may be an ideal choice for the Pinheads and Hellraisers.
Located at 20015 W. Newberry Road, the event has a corn maze, hayride and haunted house. The maze is family-friendly during the day but becomes haunted by “nocturnal life” once night falls, according to its website. Similarly, the hayride becomes an adventure through a haunted trail once the sun goes down, where doomed souls will encounter the “living dead.”
The event is open from 5 to 11 p.m. on Fridays and from 3 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays through Halloween, according to its website. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 10 and under. Masks and social distancing are also encouraged.
A bewitching night is in store for attendees of Halloween on the Green, a celebration beginning Oct. 31 at 6 p.m. at Ironwood Golf Course, located at 2100 NE 39th Ave., according to the Facebook page.
The event, hosted by Gainesville’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, will start with a drive-thru, contactless candy distribution, followed by a dance performance from Danscompany of Gainesville at 7:15 p.m.
Visitors can bring their own blankets to a screening of the family-friendly Halloween classic “Hocus Pocus”at 7:30 p.m. Candy will be given out via a golf cart, and popcorn will also be available. Attendees can bring their own carved pumpkins to be peer judged in a contest. The Chameleon and Mayflower food trucks will be selling concessions, and face masks are required, according to the page.
Another unearthly theatrical experience is available at High Dive, located at 210 SW 2nd Ave., where “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be performed with social distancing throughout October. Read more and find event times here.
Monstrous and Miscellaneous
Chefs and foodies looking to develop killer kitchen skills can register for the Fall Squash Ravioli and Fettuccine Nests cooking course, taking place in the Depot Event Space at 201 SE Depot Ave. The workshop will teach students how to make nests in the “traditional Italiano Pollio way,” according to its Eventbrite page.
It will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 18, and attendees will be able to take home their pasta. The class costs $50 if paid for in advance and $55 at the door, according to the page. COVID-19 safety precautions include a mask requirement when not eating or cooking and no groups larger than 10 people allowed.
For those hoping to work off the pasta calories after class, Gainesville Church of God is also hosting The Pumpkin Run Virtual 5k. Runners can pay $20 to take a picture of themselves as they run and tag @ThePumpkinRun and @BAPFAC on Instagram with the hashtag #WeRunToFeedKids, according to the event page.
Associate pastor Lounsbury said runners will receive a medal, bib and T-shirt for participating until Oct. 31. As with the church’s pumpkin patch, all proceeds will go to feeding children in need.
While families won’t be able to go house to house for candy this year, they can find their treats in the wild with Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation’s Halloween Drive-Thru Safari. The event, located at 8528 E. County Road 225, will take place Oct. 31 from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., according to its website. Entry will cost $10 per person with free entry for children under 2, and no reservation is required.
Barry Janks, a co-founder of the foundation, said he wanted to create a safe way for kids to trick-or-treat this year. The safari takes place on a quarter-mile path with volunteers in animal costumes, gloves and masks handing out candy along it, he said. Candy will be given to people in cars through PVC pipes to prevent contact.
Some of the animals housed at the park are tigers and hyenas, and a full list is on the foundation’s website, he said.
Somehow better than full-sized candy bars, profits will go entirely to the organization’s wildlife conservation efforts — Janks and his wife don’t even take a salary.
“I just want to see everybody enjoy themselves,” Janks said.