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Haunted house is trick and treat for organizers

October 20, 2017

2017 Haunted HouseThe Madison “Terror Trial” haunted house is proving to be a trick and a treat for organizers.

Building the haunted house “is a lot of fun,” said Derrick Burkhardt, a member of the Dakota State University Drama Club, which spearheads the annual event. Community volunteer Larry Lee looks forward to Halloween more than other holidays. “This is my Christmas,” he said.

That’s the treat for the volunteers, but for students in particular, there is a trick involved as well, namely finding time to participate with the event.

Burkhardt, Jordan Van Oort and Cole Peterson are among several volunteer students juggling classes, midterms, and as members of the drama club, rehearsals for the upcoming fall musical, “A Christmas Carol.”

Burkhardt, an accounting major from Sioux Falls, said this scheduling helps him learn how to handle being busy. “Crunch time is when I can get more organized because I have to. If I’m not organized, something has to give, like sleep or skipping classes, and that’s not good.”

There are other “treats,” lessons learned from their work on the Terror Trial. Peterson, who is in charge of the event, is gaining experience delegating duties, because “a lot needs to be done to transform 4-H animal barns into a haunted house.”

Heather Lee, a community volunteer, recalled that last year it took around 1,500 volunteer-hours, from start to finish, to put on the haunted house. Several groups help the Drama Club, including the Madison Madtown Monsters (a group of community members from Madison and Brookings), and DSU’s Photography Club, Computer Club and Game Club.

“It takes a lot of coordination because you need to know what everybody is doing, either with construction or on the scare nights,” Burkhardt said. That team effort is the best part, said graphic design major Samantha Nielsen. “I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Communication is another skill Peterson has developed, from talking to other volunteers to addressing the county commission. Peterson, a computer science major from Sioux Center, Iowa, appeared before the Lake County Commission earlier this month to request permission to hold the event, which is located on county property at 1001 South Egan Ave. in Madison.

The commissioners approved the request with some minor restrictions. A safety check by a Madison police officer, the Madison fire chief, and some small business owners must be completed before the event opens. The commissioners also requested that parking be restricted to the lots near the 4-H office, as grass has just been re-seeded on the lawn areas of the grounds.

Inside the barns, the layout is similar to previous years, Larry Lee said, each room or hallway with a theme, either from a movie or folklore. The transformation is unbelievable: “This changes the building so dramatically that 4-H people, who are very familiar with the layout, can lose their bearings,” he said.

The haunted house will be open October 26-28 from 7 to 11 p.m. Admission is $7, or $5 with a non-perishable food item, which will be donated to the Lake County Food Pantry.

A signed waiver is required for admission; minors will need a parent/guardian signature. These forms will be available at the event, or at the group’s Facebook page, at facebook.com/Madison-Terror-Trial-1866285486926932/.

Kids’ day is on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This is a “no-scare” time, Peterson said, with the volunteers wearing “cute” costumes and giving out candy. Children are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes. The DSU Photography Club will be taking pictures.