Behind the scenes at the Arboretum Spooktacular 2019

By Rachel Smith

UCF Arboretum volunteers set up the Spooktacular photo-booth with a giant hanging spider and orange lights 3 hours before the event begins. “[Spooktacular] is just an overall good time for everyone to have at a place that I really love and other people really love,” said Arboretum intern and junior environmental sciences major Ashton Eveker. Photo By Rachel Smith.

This year’s Arboretum Spooktacular drew nearly 200 students on Friday night after months of preparation and a long day of setting up.

Nearly 30 volunteers for the event shuffled into the Arboretum trailer Friday afternoon and started taking boxes of decorations outside. About 15 of those volunteers would become part of the immersive Spooktacular experience through costume and makeup.

A table of greasepaint, eyeshadow, bottles of fake blood, liquid latex and cotton balls would soon be used to transform the scare-actors into decomposing zombies, injured civilians, skeletons, demons, ghosts and ghouls.

Some volunteers practiced their scare tactics such as screams and zombie growls while the rest of the volunteers outside began setting up lights and decorations for what was soon to be the Spooktacular photo booth.

UCF Arboretum intern and junior environmental studies major Ashton Eveker said this was her first time participating in the Arboretum Spooktacular.

“Spooktacular is our event to celebrate Halloween but also to bring attention to the Arboretum,” Eveker said. “We’re watching a movie. We’re having food. We’re taking pictures. We have a ‘spook trail’ with ‘scarers’ and it’s just an overall good time.”

The event was free for anyone interested and gave Orlando-local Tammy Walker something to do. She even brought her dog, Atlas.

“We come every year that they have this event,” Walker said. “It’s my favorite event because it’s dog-friendly. I can camp outdoors. I can meet a lot of other people and free pizza.”

It took nearly three hours for the volunteers to completely set up everything for the night and even longer for the scare-actors to complete their costumes and makeup.

Arboretum Coordinator Kelsie Johnson has been a part of the program for three years now and describes her experience with the annual Spooktacular as the most fun event that they host every year.

“It’s definitely the most involved [event] that we do,” Johnson said. “Each year, we do it a little bigger and better than the last.”

All scare-actors were required to take a Scare Safety Workshop before Friday in order to create a safer environment for all participants.

Sophomore theatre studies and entertainment management double major Christian Bresciani said this was his first time being a part of Spooktacular and he learned a lot about how to make the experience more immersive  — especially through makeup.

“It’s actually something that I am very passionate about,” Bresciani said. “It’s just me doing something I really love whenever I get the opportunity.”

Bresciani did other scare-actors’ makeup, experimenting with grease paint and getting more comfortable with liquid latex.

Once he was in full costume as a “zombie butcher man” Bresciani said he was able to get quite a few screams from those who dared to enter the Terror Trail.

“I absolutely love Halloween Horror Nights at Universal and I have seen what they do in the haunted houses, so I just take from that and it seems to get me some scares,” Bresciani said with a chuckle.

The dedication of the scare-actors was apparent as they all walked back to the Arboretum trailer at the end of the night covered in dirt, sweat and fake blood.

As the volunteers began cleaning up empty pizza boxes and taking down decorations, the participants were able to slow their heart rates down with a screening of Beetlejuice at the end of the night.

Correction: The Arboretum Coordinator’s name was misspelled as Kelsea Johnson in the original version of this story. The story has been updated to the correct spelling, Kelsie.

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