Bringing spooky scares to Brandon, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Westman has crafted a one-of-a-kind haunted house designed to bewitch the mind and ensnare the senses.
This year’s haunted house has found a new location, offering bigger scares and a more expansive place to explore at Alternative Landscaping on 18th Street North, said Big Brothers Big Sisters board president Sherri Grieve. She estimates the space is close to three times the size of previous haunted houses hosted by the non-profit.
“It’s going to be awesome. I’m looking forward to it,” Grieve said. “We think people are really, really, going to enjoy it this year. Especially because they haven’t [been able] to get out and do any of these things in the last year or so.”
The haunted house opened to the public on Oct. 21 and has hauntings available from Oct. 28-30. It’s open from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday and from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The first hour of the haunted house is a no-scare zone and the age of children attending the event is at the discretion of parents. During the no-scare hour, the props featured at the haunted house will be on display, but volunteers will not be wearing their scary Halloween masks or jumping out of their hiding spots.
“We’re usually handing out candy to the kids,” Grieve said.
Admission for the haunted house has increased to $8 this year for 12 and older and $5 for under 12.
Grieve described the new spot at Alternative Landscaping as a prime location because they can offer bigger and better scares, along with providing easier access to community members because two bus stops are located nearby.
The haunted house will be sprinkled with surprises both inside and outside for guests to enjoy when they visit. She added the house includes an expansive maze, and groups getting their ghost on should expect a longer scare than in previous years.
When going through the house, groups no larger than five are recommended.
“If your group is two or three people, you’re definitely going to have a scare factor,” Grieve said. “It gives you a better scare. Otherwise, [with a bigger group], the people at the back aren’t going to get [scared].”
Big Brothers Big Sisters is hoping visitors will dress up in their best costumes, adding to their ghostly experience. Guests are also asked to resist using their cellphone flashlights or any light source during the walkthrough.
In preparation for this year’s Halloween fundraiser, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been working closely with public health to ensure it is safe for guests and volunteers.
Participants 12 and up will be required to provide proof of full vaccination. Anyone under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a fully vaccinated adult, and masks will be required at all times while visiting the haunted house.
Preparation for the spooky season has kept the non-profit busy, Grieve said. Construction of the haunted house began in September, and volunteers have been working tirelessly to create a spooky experience for visitors.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Westman volunteers are excited to be back to the haunted house, she added, as last year’s Halloween celebrations were cancelled due to COVID-19. The non-profit continues to closely monitor public health measures to ensure they can adapt quickly, and sanitization stations will be available on site.
Volunteers will be scanning vaccination QR codes, and Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers are required to be fully vaccinated.
Funds raised during the haunted house help Big Brothers Big Sisters keep their doors open to the community. The donations raised support the employment of two full-time and one part-time staff members, rent costs and utilities.
“All funds raised completely stay in Brandon,” Grieve said. “It also helps to be able to promote more of our programs.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Westman is striving to reach a larger area and offer increased support in the community. Grieve said they want to be able to provide more programs across the region and in schools.
Fundraising for the non-profit has been a challenge during COVID-19. For almost two years, the organization has been unable to engage in fundraising events.
The last big fundraiser was Bowl For Kids’ Sake in 2020, days before the province shut down due to the pandemic. Grieve said they have been unable to fundraise since, making the haunted house all the more fun and important for the non-profit.
“Now that we are able to do fundraisers again, we encourage everybody to come out and support us. It’s a great cause, it helps our youth,” Grieve said.
“Without the fundraisers and without the help of the community, we wouldn’t be able to offer this mentorship program to the youth or put on these types of events.”
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun