No More Nights of Fright

Bright+Halloween+decorations+at+an+amusement+park

Mark Willard

Bright Halloween decorations at an amusement park

Kiana Guanga

There are no more nights of fright at California’s Great America.

Cedar Fair, the park’s owner and operator, reported the discontinuation of its spine-chilling Halloween Haunt event at its Great America location in Santa Clara – along with several of its other parks – in late February. The company plans to transform its yearly Halloween celebration into Tricks and Treats, a family-friendly festival consisting of magnificent shows, treats, and hands-on activities throughout the park. The replacement of the Halloween Haunt with the new Tricks and Treats event eliminates the scare factor of Great America’s annual Halloween celebration – a component that attracted many teenagers and young adults.

Since its debut in 2008, the Halloween Haunt has remained a staple of Bay Area holiday-season culture. With the combination of fear-stimulating mazes, jumpscares from actors dressed in daunting costumes, and eerie decorations scattered throughout the park, visitors were able to feel the festive, spine-chilling spirit of Halloween. “I enjoyed that the Haunt was able to make me feel scared. I was occupied on the weekends due to the Haunt and it was something my friends and I looked forward to all the time,” Anoushka Banerjee, a Junior at Wilcox, expressed. With the event extending from sunset to midnight, guests could experience the thrill of the amusement park’s atmosphere during the dead of night – an untraditional approach compared to the park’s standard closing time of 10:00 pm.

The announcement of the discontinuation of the Halloween Haunt has sent a wave of confusion and fury throughout the Bay Area community. “ The cancellation really disappointed me, I didn’t even feel like the rides were worth it to get a silver pass. I haven’t been able to feel the Halloween spirit at all without the Haunt. I feel like there could’ve been alternatives rather than just canceling the whole thing, ” Banerjee continued. Many avid guests were ecstatic to attend the Haunt after the COVID-19 closure that disrupted the park’s operations for nearly two years. As the event was only reopened the previous season, the news of the event’s discontinuation frustrated many.  To satisfy their fear-seeking desires, locals will be required to travel a 65-mile distance to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – located in the Northern region of the Bay Area – for their Fright Fest event.

Despite the bitterness many hold regarding the cancellation of the Halloween Haunt, some visitors have a contrasting outlook. “I think the Haunt was getting boring. It just wasn’t as scary as it was in years past – they probably canceled it because many people including myself weren’t feeling as spooked anymore,” Camila Chavarria, a college Freshman, commented. In the early years of the Haunt’s operation, the park’s haunted mazes, actors, and decorations were considered significantly more skin-crawling and spontaneous. Great America has, however, been lacking such heart-pounding activity in recent seasons. 

Cedar Fair’s corporate creative producer, Clayton Lawrence, reported to SFGATE that the corporation’s motive for canceling the beloved Halloween Haunt was the desire for an event that would fit the family-friendly, lighthearted atmosphere of their parks.  This was done in regard to visitors who did not appreciate the traditional fright factor of the parks’ Halloween celebrations. The arrival of Tricks and Treats incorporates an alternative that is an all-day, “over-the-top, Halloween event with all fun and no fright,” which would be suitable for visitors of all ages rather than excluding the younger generation from the parks’ Halloween festivities.

Great America has traditionally hosted a daytime Halloween celebration with corn mazes, live shows, and activities for children, followed by the Halloween Haunt for older guests at night. This allowed visitors to experience both the joyful and fright-inducing Halloween spirit at Great America, rather than only being limited to one or the other. Now, Great America’s Halloween celebration is limited to all family-friendly, lighthearted extravaganzas with no fright.

Cedar Fair’s announcement in late February of the permanent closure of Great America in the not-too-distant future left visitors optimistic about taking full advantage of the park’s final years. It is unfortunate, however, that due to the discontinuation of its beloved Halloween Haunt, many park-goers are now restricted to the thrills that are available at the park.