Tallahassee Museum education staff and volunteers have been putting on the Halloween Howl event for over two decades. This spooktacular two-night event is the Museum’s largest on-grounds fundraiser, and the event’s quarter-mile Haunted Trail is a huge crowd pleaser, with over 1200 people experiencing the Trail each year.
Last year, approximately 2000 volunteer hours were spent creating and planning the Haunted Trail, which takes place on the Museum’s wooded nature loop that runs along Lake Hiawatha. According to Haunted Trail volunteer and coordinator Jeff Horton, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into creating and planning out the Trail that most people don’t know about.
“We design and construct the sets, hand craft many of the props, recruit volunteers, do lighting design, and a host of other activities related to the Trail,” said Horton.
Horton says most of the props on the Museum’s Haunted Trail are hand-made by the core volunteer team, and constructed out of recycled and biodegradable materials. Many materials are salvaged or picked specifically because of its low impact on the environment.
“We try to re-purpose or reuse as much as we can. One man’s trash is our treasure. It’s not 100%, but we work hard at it.”
Horton, who is the director of the Institute for Applied Business Research at the FSU College of Business said he always loved Halloween and the Tallahassee Museum.
“Volunteering with Halloween Howl was a good way for me to get involved with the Museum,” said Horton.
Horton’s core team includes Rob Barrett, Ann Durham, Bob Durham, and Joel Allbritton, but they’re not alone. Other volunteers make a significant contribution in smaller but critical ways.
“We sink approximately 200 two by fours in the ground as part of the set construction, and each one of those holes is dug by hand.”
Overall, the Halloween Howl event utilizes over 500 volunteers and close to 8000 volunteer hours throughout the month of October. Volunteers help sort and decorate the grounds, facilitate games and activities on the nights of the event, as well as break down all decorations in the days and weeks to follow.
Natasha Hartsfield, Director of Education says the success of the Halloween Howl event would not be possible without volunteers like Horton and Barrett.
“Jeff Horton and Rob Barrett have inspired other volunteers to return each year and give their time to making Halloween Howl a success. Jeff’s leadership not only inspires teamwork, but also maintains a well-thought out and organized plan well ahead of the event. We are truly grateful for all the time and effort he has put forth to the Haunted Trail over the years.”
Barrett has coordinated the Haunted Trail together with Horton since 2013 and previously held other volunteer positions with Halloween Howl. Bob and Ann Durham both previously coordinated the Trail from 2008 – 2012.
“I think one of the truly important things to note is that this is a completely volunteer-driven endeavor,” said Horton. “It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk the Trail, but that 15-20 minute experience requires hundreds of hours of preparation.”