Construction

After two years of planning and building the haunt at Vintage Parkway, I have a new respect for those who put together these events on an annual basis. The 6th Fright is one night only, for just 2 hours. While it would be great to extend the hours or open the haunt during the weekend in order to raise some additional money for the kids, teachers and PTA, it’s difficult enough to get volunteers to put in 2 hours, even if they don’t have to dress up.

While I feel we have a very late start to putting the haunt together, with planning only beginning in September, construction begin with just 11 days (8 full days) until the Harvest Carnival begins on October 23. Thankfully the layout this year was a very simple design. No complex mazes or back to back walls that caused lots of cutting and taping. During the planning stage, I reduced the number of rooms to five, down from seven the previous few years. This helped to expedite construction. In the weeks leading up to construction I purchased and build 7 new walls to use as hallways. These new wall panels (4’x8′) were erected quicker than piecing together PVC pipes to create the frame of the hallways and room.

The wall panels are an investment in future haunts, as they can easily be repainted black and reused. Initial investment is higher, approximately $20 per panel but allowed me to quickly erected the first two hallways. I was unable to have Mark G. help during this phase, but to erect all the PVC and walls in two days is something not achieved in previous years. This is a testament to the simplicity of the layout and the wood panels. A great feature using the panels, framed using 2″x2″ furring strips was the fact than cutting and stapling black plastic was much quicker than taping plastic in place.

Each wall panel was secured to the floor using two and a half inch drywall screws and braced using existing walls on the stage. When it came to using PVC, one room and two hallways was all that was required to build, it was simple to tie in the PVC to the frame of the wall panels. The overall construction is clean and very solid, in terms of durability.

As building progressed, there were some minor changes to the overall design. In the planning phase, I miscalculated the overall length of the stage by 2 feet. That cause a minor problem with the drop panel hallway being shortened by 4 feet. Not something that will ruin the overall layout or design, but an important fact I must remember for next year. Thankfully this modification only affected the first half of the haunt, the remainder of the rooms fit together perfectly.

What I thought would be most challenging was the 20′ long tunnel shaped corridor that was being erected and enclosed to be used as our laser vortex. Thanks go out to Tom V. who helped assemble the laser vortex corridor. Each rib was pre-built and separated by a 3′ spacer to add rigidity to the self contained structure. I figured there would be a bigger challenge cutting and hanging a single piece of black plastic, nearly 20’x20′ to cover the corridor. Mark G. made a guest appearance and we were able to easily run the plastic down the middle of the support and separate the plastic, who fell nicely covering the tunnel completely.

I do wish I would have taken better notes and saved images of the octagon shape I placed a foot higher than the walls in the dot room. Since the dotted sheets are 8 feet high, an extension was pieced together last year to give the dot room a circular shape. It wasn’t built pretty, then again the haunt isn’t a beauty contest. It was functional, so I decided to add the same octagon extension this year in order to hang the sheets. It didn’t work as well as planned, some of the measurements were off and I ended up hanging the sheets with zip ties so they hung to the ground.

Every year we seem to learn something new or spend more money on supplies that make the jump of building the haunt easier. That’s good, but bad since much of what is spent isn’t reimbursed. Yet the most important thing to remember when participating in the project, the kids. This is all for the kids enjoyment, the laughs, the crying, the screams. That is a a small price to pay to see smiles (or horrified looks) on their faces.

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