BY EMILY KUHL
For the Journal
BLACKFOOT—Where only six weeks ago families ate funnel cakes in the September sun, the Eastern Idaho State Fairgrounds are now open again by the Blackfoot Community Players presenting the “Grandstand of Terror.”
In its eighth year of operation, Director Sharon Hoge says the experience is not for the faint of heart. The Spook Alley can get downright scary. The entire course is full of freaky rooms, noises, and general blackness that makes one feel like light is unreachable. And if that isn’t enough, there are actors all throughout the course waiting to jump out at participants.
Hoge says the hardest part of the event is the staffing, set-up, and planning, which starts in January each year.
About 70 actors are staffed every year, ranging from the little 9-year-old in the mask who scares participants right off the bat with a vicious gate clanging, to adults who appear suddenly in the darkness. All are volunteers and do not get paid, but Hoge says it is for a good cause, as it keeps the Blackfoot Community Player’s Nuart Theatre in Blackfoot open and running.
Setup is a big ordeal for the Grandstand of Terror, since construction of the huge course cannot begin until the EISF finishes and gets cleaned out about one month before the opening of the course. Hoge says the grounds are rented from the EISF, but they are a pleasure to work with since the Blackfoot Community Players are a local nonprofit group.
The planning and setup crew includes two engineers from the INL, which is why many of the frightening effects are so quality. The course includes a very impressive lineup of effects and illusions, and a variety of rooms and different sections that are effective at making participants scream in horror. When asked how a particular well-done illusion worked, Hoge said, “We don’t tell.” The mystery adds to the terror.
Attendance has gone up every year, with the first Friday this year being the group’s biggest night to date with 264 participants. Hoge says the crowd that comes through is varied, with bigger groups coming from local colleges, and then the local younger kids that frequent the haunted grandstands. She says they have always strived to keep prices down so everyone can come.
The rules for the Spook Alley are very simple: electronic devices like cell phones and flashlights are to be shut off entirely (cell phones even on silent or vibrate can interrupt some of the electronic effects within the course), and the actors are not to be touched. The doorman to the course is sure to say that the actors are instructed to not touch participants, so please do not touch the actors.
The course runs through Oct. 31 and starts every night except Sundays at 7:30 p.m. The ticket booth at the East entrance to the fairgrounds stops selling tickets at 9:30 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Groups of four to eight people enter the course at a time and it takes about a half hour to complete, depending on how each person reacts to the terror and makes it to the exit. Tickets are $7, or $10 for express passes, which will get participants into an express line to get into the course faster.
For more information on the Grandstand of Terror Spook Alley, call (208) 785-5344 or simply visit the course yourself and be a part of the fright. For upcoming events by the Blackfoot Community Players, including the play set to start in the beginning of December called “Dashing Through the Snow,” visit the website at www. nuarttheatre.org.