In the most unprecedented manner, yet still fitting the chaotic theme of 2020, Busch Gardens is reopening its annual Howl-O-Scream event, but with some features staggeringly prevalent.
Unlike in previous years, there will not be any indoor haunted houses. Instead, Busch Gardens is replacing them with 10 outdoor scare zones, each with their own maximum occupancy levels.
Returning scare zones include Deadly Toys, Dia de los Muertos, First Fear, Hell on Wheels, Little Nightmares and Maniac Midway, with new zones including Lycan Landing, the Escape, the Junkyard and the Shortcut. Lycan Landing, set in a campground, features werewolves and scares as attendees continue down a path. The Escape features inmate shenanigans and the Junkyard is designed to narrow guests in a small path rife with scares. The Shortcut is similar to Lycan Landing in that it also puts guests down a one-way pathway all the while features ghosts and ghouls through its cemetery setting.
Despite the recent changes, Sharon McDougne, mother of three, says she is still excited to attend Howl-O-Scream with her children. “I think even with the pandemic and social distancing, I can still have a lot of fun with my family.” For McDougne, she says she is grateful Busch Gardens is continuing the event.
Kicking off Oct. 2, Busch Gardens’ leading directors all advocated their social distancing procedures, many of which apply to guests, staff and even on-stage performers.
In maintaining a six feet distance while performing, all of the dancers wear masks and some hold “6 feet” signs, incorporated into their performance.
For park-goers, Busch Gardens re-emphasizes its requirement for face coverings, attempts to remain six feet apart from one another and the movement of multiple traditionally indoors events to outside areas meet CDC guidelines.
Still, some community members are concerned about the number of people attending Howl-O-Scream this year. Local farmer Scott Rosenberg says, “All the new procedures aren’t going to change the fact that there’s going to be a ton of people all packed together in a couple of miles.” Rosenberg says he thinks even though Busch Gardens is going to do their best to curb infections, “there is no way they can track all of that each night.”
Like many other businesses, Busch Gardens is forced to rethink how they want to celebrate Halloween and how that might affect the greater population. With previous years’ projected attendees – 300,000 people – Busch Gardens serves as a litmus test for other parks for the procedures they should and should not be implementing.