Families have been bringing their children to Haunt the Zoo for 29 years and, while it has changed over the years, it remains a crowd pleaser.
This year, 35,000 people are expected to visit the Oklahoma City Zoo during Haunt the Zoo's six-day run beginning Friday. When they arrive they'll find 1,000 pumpkins and 21 themed booths powered by a mile and a half of extension cords.
This year there will be some old favorites — including a 30-foot dragon with smoke that billows from its nostrils — and some new twists that are kept secret until the gates open. Planning began months ago.
“It's been going on since July and August,” graphics designer Megan Watham said. “We start by going through what went well the year before and what didn't go so well.”
Watham said it's during that time the decision is made to throw out or recycle old props.
“Some are damaged beyond repair and it's time to retire them,” she said. “We had some that weighed over 200 pounds and we're working on retiring those.”
Designers have been experimenting with new techniques as they phase out old props and create new ones.
“We've used a lot of foam this year for new props,” Watham said. “We carve them using Dremel tools. We're moving away from chicken wire and papier-mache.”
While most of the new additions are being kept under wraps, organizers revealed there will be a Wizard of Oz-themed prop with a witch's foot sticking out from beneath, complete with a pair of red ruby slippers.
For Watham, the best part is the moment just before the gates open the first night.
“I love seeing the kids all decked out in their costumes,” she said. “The look on their faces is priceless.”