The Coastal Star

Tots & Teens: Have a shrieking good time at Sugar Sand Park’s annual event

Children get into the Halloween spirit during Sugar Sand Park’s Shriek Week, now in its 14th year. Photo provided

By Janis Fontaine

Halloween is America’s favorite holiday. Americans love it so much, they’ll spend more than $8 billion on the holiday this year. 

The face (the mask?) of the holiday is changing along with its popularity. Halloween used to be about trick-or-treating in the neighborhood; but parties and get-togethers, haunted houses and trunk-or-treating (sort of like tailgating and popular at churches) have taken over. And sometimes bigger is better.

Case in point: Sugar Sand Park’s annual Shriek Week is in its 14th year. About 10,000 people visited the park for scary fun last year, said Stacee Lanz,  special events coordinator for Boca Raton parks.

“Because it’s spread out over five days, it never feels packed,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard to make this a great event for families, to fill the niche.”

The festivities take place Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 25-27. The event has a special night for the younger kids — Shriek Week Lite on Oct. 25 — with all the fun but not quite so scary, with brighter lighting and softer audio. Lite Nite is recommended for ages 5 and older and takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. All the attractions are open except the Alien Lab Haunted Walk-through.

For the four other nights, the “don’t miss attraction” is the Haunted House Dreamy-Land, designed for kids older than 7. This old-fashioned traveling carnival may have started its journey in a dreamy, magical world, but now it’s a haunted nightmare where everything has gone awry.

The attraction is open by reservation only from 6 to 11 each night. To prevent making people wait in line for hours and miss the other attractions, Shriek Week instituted the reservation system, and Lanz says it works out well.

People enter in small groups (a maximum of 12 people) at their reservation times, earning them a more intimately terrifying experience.

Lanz said it’s a good idea to show up 10 minutes before your reservation time, because it’s hard to make other accommodations if you miss it. A parent or guardian must accompany children 12 and younger, and adults must purchase a reservation with their kids. Tickets are $9 beginning Oct. 6, available at willowtheatre.org.

A special part of Shriek Week for the past seven years is the Kids’ Spooky Film Festival.

Lanz says she received about 20 submissions and plans to screen about a dozen films during Shriek Week.

The films may also be seen online during October. Film fans are encouraged to vote for their favorite. After Shriek Week, films will be judged and prizes will be awarded in November.

“We have some very good budding filmmakers submitting films,” Lanz said.

The 3- to 10-minute films may be spooky, scary, thrilling and suspenseful but cannot contain violence, bullying, nudity, excessive blood or profanity, and should not depict unsafe behavior or drug or alcohol use. All films are suitable for kids ages 5 to 12. 

For more information, call 347-3948 or visit willowtheatre.org.

Details on other attractions:

• The Alien Lab Haunted Walk-through aims to answer the burning question: Is there extraterrestrial life? Someone has been conducting secret experiments and what they reveal will shock you. Is it a coverup or a hoax? Open from 6 to 10:30 Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27. Get tickets on-site the day of the event.

• Like your Halloween less scary and more fun? The park will have an indoor black-light game room, glitter tattoo stations and make-and-take crafts. Also available nightly until 9 (8:30 on Lite Nite), your little engineer will love the Catabella Express Trackless Train Ride aboard a 26-passenger vintage-look train dressed up with LED lights and an, ahem, killer sound system. It’s ADA-accessible. Tickets are available on-site.

• The interactive animal exhibit is open nightly and features a tabletop petting zoo with some spooky (a big snake, a scorpion and a tarantula) and some not-scary animals (a bunny, a parrot and a chinchilla). Get tickets at the door.

• The Giant LED Robots & DJ Show returns with giant stilt-walking LED-lighted robots who dance and shoot air cannons on the first weekend only, with 30-minute shows at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.

• The Amazing Mr. A brings his signature brand of comedy, magic and ventriloquism to the stage with new tricks just for Halloween to the second week of festivities. The 30-minute shows take place at 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 26-27. Special Lite Nite shows are planned for Oct. 25 at 6:30 and 7:30. Get tickets at the door.

• And what would Halloween be without sugar? The Trick or Treat Trail will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26-27, and 5-8 on Lite Night, Oct. 25. You get it all: the bag, the candy and special giveaways from participating vendors. The best part? It’s free! Interested in becoming a vendor? Contact Sugar Sand at 347-3900.

Pajama Game benefits Sweet Dream Makers

Love mahjong, canasta, bridge or bunco? Are you the board game queen? Use your love of games to help kids at the Oct. 9 Pajama Game Night for Sweet Dream Makers, a nonprofit that provides kids and families with new beds, including mattresses, box springs, pillows and sheets.

Suzy Broad, executive director of the Boca Raton-based Sweet Dream Makers, has provided all kinds of beds, from toddler beds to bunks to adult-size.

In 2017, Sweet Dream Makers teamed with the Boca West Foundation and Boca Raton Regional Hospital to start Beginnings, ensuring no baby in need will leave the hospital without a crib, bedding, formula and diapers.

After food, water and shelter, sleep is our most primary physical need. It’s where our bodies heal themselves and solidify memories and learning. Sweet Dream Makers promotes good health and well-being by ensuring clients are not left sleepless in South Florida.

Game night takes place from 7 to 10 at St. Andrews Country Club, 17557 Claridge Oval W., Boca Raton. Tickets are $50 per player, which includes valet parking, snacks and drinks.

All proceeds help purchase beds and bedding for children and their families in need. PJs are optional; valet, snacks and drinks are included.

Call 271-8058, email games@SweetDreamMakers.org, or visit SweetDreamMakers.org.

Read for the Record returns

The Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County needs volunteers to read books to kids on Oct. 25 at locations throughout the county. Join millions of volunteers across the country to “Read for the Record” and take a few minutes to read aloud.

Sharing your love of reading encourages kids to want to read. This year’s book is Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell.

In 2017, Read for the Record boasted 415 local volunteers who read to 15,696 children at child care centers and schools throughout Palm Beach County. The campaign helps to highlight the importance of early literacy and celebrate the power of volunteers reading to children.

To sign up, visit literacypbc.org/event/read-for-the-record/.

Send Tots & Teens news to Janis Fontaine at janisfontaine@outlook.com.

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