My turn

Haunted hayride scares up fun in Cal City

2013-11-07T00:00:00Z Haunted hayride scares up fun in Cal CityGeorge Grenchik Times Columnist
November 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Well, with Halloween gone, we’ve passed the last commercial speed bump before the onslaught of advertising prep for the “big one” — Christmas, the season of Biblical spending. (That’s kind of ironic, no?)

And poor Thanksgiving just doesn’t get that much commercial play, except maybe for the new feast day known as Black Friday.

Actually I believe that Halloween has become the second biggest commercial holiday of them all. There’s the “treats” and the costuming and more and more, the house decorating inside and out. All in good fun mostly. There are some who see some demonic and dark overtones to the day. Well, to each his or her own.

This year I helped a little with the Calumet Memorial Park District’s Haunted Hay ride. The event occurred on the Friday and Saturday before Halloween. I worked the Saturday shift as a guide on one of the wagons loaded with hay bales which was pulled by a park district tractor. I announced myself as the “fright” attendant.

The 15-or-so minute trip through the Burnham Woods Golf Course was cool. At times it was a bumpy ride; the hay wagon is not equipped with shocks. But there were more that a few “shocks” along the way for the young, and some not so young, passengers.

A team of about 20 ghouls, goblins, and assorted other frightening characters lurked on the route. They all stopped to “visit” the passengers of our little golf course tour.

Toward the end of the trip, a disheveled young woman desperately tried to board the wagon claiming that there was someone out there wanting to do her serious harm — “I’m not making this up” as she would tell the usually stunned passengers.

Soon we all knew what she was talking about. A chainsaw wielding, zipper-faced reprobate, who spoke not except through the roar of his instrument of doom, made quick work of the poor victim. He would then jump on the outside of the wagon and observe our screaming little tour group.

I’m pretty sure what he had wasn’t a chainsaw, but it looked like one and made a loud, threatening sound. Great theater.

Anyway, it was a fun time. It’s amazing how many people love and will pay money to be scared out of their wits.

A really cool thing is that the event, which drew almost 800 “tourists” was pulled off with all volunteer help. And plenty of helped was needed. From the guides, to the “scarers” to the hot chocolate servers, to the hotdog makers, and others who I am now not remembering, around 40 or so volunteers made it happen.

Congrats to the park district and thanks to the volunteers.

The haunted hayride, and before that, the haunted house, in Calumet City had its origins from the youth group from St. Victor Parish back in the mid- to late 1980s.

St. Victor had a staff person full time for youth ministry, Sister Barb Marzewski. One of the group’s activities was to turn the four-bay priests’ garage into a haunted house. It was quite the successful venture. So successful that it outgrew its venue. The haunted house was moved to the old Memorial Park pool building, which has since been torn down.

The park district took over running the haunted house when St. Victor no longer had a full-time youth ministry. The event was moved to the Finneran Park pool building. A haunted hay ride was added and has been done for several years now.

So Halloween lives on in Cal City.

Thanks for reading.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. George Grenchik is a longtime Calumet City resident and retired instructor at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond. He can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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