SANTA CLAUS, Ind. - Family fun will be the focus of Happy Halloween Weekends at Holiday World this fall, the park's latest experiment to prolong its season.
Dan Koch, the park's president, said no one is really sure what kind of crowd will show up.
"We have only advertised for this in Evansville and Louisville," Koch said. "Usually, we advertise in Indy, Lexington and Nashville. But we have chosen to keep it local and get it right. We want to make sure we could handle the crowds and have a good time. But candidly, we don't know what to expect. It is a new event."
Theme parks across the country have extended their operating seasons by having Halloween-themed events in October. When Koch and others at Holiday World decided to try the idea, they wanted to be sure there would be nothing too scary or gory.
"This is a family friendly event," Koch said. "This is not gory. Do not show up like an Oakland Raider fan. No masks or weapons or anything like that. We just want to have fun."
Kids 12 and under are encouraged to wear costumes so they can trick-or-treat in one area of the park. Other new features include a corn maze, hay rides, seasonal foods and a 3-D walk-through display called Holidog's 3-D Halloween Adventure. There will also be laser light shows on Saturday nights.
Most of the park's regular rides will be in operation, although Pilgrim's Plunge, Raging Rapids and the Voyage will be closed. The water park, Splashin' Safari, closed for the season Sept. 3.
"We've been planning this for two years," Koch said. "We wanted to add attractions that we didn't have on regular Holiday World days. And we have some over-the-top decorations. All these things are new and exciting."
The corn maze was created by Precision Mazes of Lee's Summit, Mo. The 3-D walk-through was built by park employees, with the 3D artwork painted by Blacklight 3-D Productions from St. Louis. Holiday World director of special events Eric Snow worked closely with the artists to make sure nothing too scary was included.
The Happy Halloween Weekends begin Saturday and run through Oct. 28. Tickets are $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for guests under 54 inches tall or over 60 years old. Children 2 and under are free.
"We did reduce the prices, I'm proud to say," Koch said. "It is a very reasonably priced event given the add-ons. I think it is a great event for families."
Koch said attendance for Holiday World and Splashin' Safari remained strong this year, though the extended drought in June and July did cause a slight dip.
"It has been a great year," Koch said. "This was our second-best year ever. We were running ahead of our best year, but during that heat wave we lost about 15 to 20 percent of our daily attendance. In 107 degree weather, some people won't even go to a water park."
Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, which added the new Mammoth water coaster this year, will make a short announcement about changes for next year in about two weeks.
"We did a great big project for 2012, so there may not be a big project in 2013," Koch said. "But I promise you, there are big, big projects coming for 2014, 2015 and 2016. They are already on the drawing board, but I am sworn to secrecy."