The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

October 7, 2011

The Boo is back

After 13-year hiatus, band fundraiser is ready to raise hackles

NORTH KINGSVILLE —  It’s only been four months since North Kingsville Elementary School closed, but the old section of the building is already full of new occupants.

There are rats in the basement, decomposing bodies in the gymnasium, ghouls in the classrooms and body parts on the cafeteria serving line. A pair of evil eyes peers out on the community from a second-story window of the 1915 building, luring students of the macabre to attend night school this Halloween season.

The transformation of the elementary school into a fright house has taken place over the past five weeks by an army of volunteers, who are likely to feel like walking zombies by the time Oct. 31 arrives. Members and friends of the Buckeye Band Boosters, they are bringing back to Ashtabula County a tradition that began in the late 1960s and enjoyed a 30-year run of scaring the dickens out of folks, the Buckeye Boo.

The Halloween fundraiser is fondly recalled by Chip and Linda Laugen and Bart Millard, who are directing the team of volunteers responsible for the resurrection of this Buckeye Local Schools District tradition. Both the Laugens and Millard recall going to the event as students and later volunteering with it. Chip Laugen recalls that his job was working in the room where the Boo terminated with a two-story tall sliding board.

Millard said that kind of exit won’t be a part of this year’s Boo — everything is on the first floor or in the basement, and there are safety and liability issues. Nevertheless, many of old Boo’s attractions, including mirrored mazes and costumed characters, will be on hand when the new Boo opens its doors the evening of Oct. 15.

“We’re trying to bring back what we had in the past, but we’re throwing a lot of new electronics into the mix,” Millard said.

Millard and his wife, Gail, are familiar to local Halloween and Christmas fans alike — they embellish the front yard of their East 40th Street home with lights, animated figures and electronic devices to create exciting displays that draw hundreds of visitors. Bart said many of his Halloween figures and decor will end up in the Boo, although he also plans to do a scaled-down version of his display at home.

The idea of reviving the fundraiser came up when several of the band boosters realized that the closed school would provide the perfect, safe venue for a Boo. The district’s administration agreed, and they have been working in the building most nights and weekends for the past five weeks.

Although there’s no overarching theme to the Boo, there are themed rooms that volunteers have adopted and therein released their macabre creative energies. In the gymnasium, Edgewood student Bryan Jones has created a cemetery complete with real headstones, creepy trees and haunted forest characters. Millard said the room will be enhanced with an electronic thunderstorm.

In the basement, a rat room will give visitors the creeps as dozens of the rodents seem to rub against their legs in the narrow space. Another room features an electric chair and coffin, and a haunted classroom has been filled with zombie babies. Overall, eight of the school’s rooms have been re-purposed for the fundraiser.

Millard said no props were retained from the previous Boos, so the volunteers had to start from scratch. Many businesses and individuals have donated building materials, supplies and props, and “we did some dumpster diving,” Millard said.

In the past, Boos were held in old houses and buildings that were near the point of condemnation. Using the school has eliminated many of the safety issues that came with recycling those old buildings.

The Boo is recommended for youngsters 10 years and older. Regardless of the age, the admission price is just $5, the same amount it was when the last Boo was held 13 years ago. A repeat visit is just $2, and children under 6 get in free.

Bryan Jones said that families with children who might be traumatized by the Boo can bring those youngsters and entrust them to the Kids Boo while other family members enjoy being scared to death. Activities will be offered during the Kids Boo, but Jones warns that it’s not a baby sitting service and any children who are not claimed will be put to use as props.

The Boo will operate the evenings of Oct. 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30 and 31. Hours are 7 to 11 p.m. except Sunday nights and Halloween, when the Boo will close at 10 p.m.

More information is at buckeyeboo.info.

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