First of all, in my opinion, Lake Metroparks is one of the gems of Lake County, Ohio. Most of you know my son Andy. Andy has Down syndrome and while he could participate in many park activities and visits the parks often, the most meaningful programs for him are the Adapted Programming activities. He recently participated in a 5 week program called Glee Club, 5 weeks of “rocking out” out on microphones, drumsets, guitars, and keyboards. You might ask, what could this possibly have to do with the Metroparks? Last night, members of the Glee Club volunteered to entertain on the Glee Thriller stage at the Halloween Hayrides!
It was a chilly, damp night. The day’s rain had stopped and spooky clouds were in the air. Everybody was dressed warmly either under or as part of their costumes. The group convened at 5:30 to practice their moves and main number, “Call Me Maybe,” complete with dancing and hand motions. They would have to perform every few minutes for passing wagons full of Halloween Hayriders. The rides started at 6:30 pm and continued to 8:30 pm. It could prove to be a long night.
I will admit I was a little worried whether Andy would make it the whole evening. I should not have even given it a thought. He was excited about performing. Andy and this whole group would do anything for their fantastic leaders, Bonnie Hayhurst and Kellie Dziemianzuk. Bonnie led the group during their 5 week Glee Program with Kellie assisting. For Glee Thriller, Kellie took charge and Bonnie helped keep the group on pace.
A wagon picked them up and took them to their stage near a barn called the Well Bred Shed. Dana and I walked down to take some pre-show photos and see if Andy needed any encouragement. Turned out they were in a great place – the Well Bred Shed was where all the hot chocolate would be distributed to volunteers throughout the evening and there were restrooms inside too. While we we were there , the group practiced their moves, were given instructions on hot chocolate distribution and safety by Elise (in full skeleton mode) and their area coordinators stopped by to make sure the music, lights and smoke machine were working. This event is a big production for the Metroparks and obviously well planned and coordinated.
Satisfied that all was well on the Glee stage, Dana and I headed back to the main pavilion. We could hear the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a few yards from the Glee stage, practicing. We also passed a group acting out the popular game, Angry Birds. Closer to the pavilion was a group bringing “Franken Chicken” to life, with the Ramones song, Pet Cemetery, playing over and over.
Sadly, the event sold out weeks ago and we did not have tickets for the hayride that night. We have taken the hayride in previous years and know that it is a fun time. At each “spooky” station, the volunteer performers do a great job. The wait in line for the rides can be long but entertainment is provided along the way by a DJ in a creatively decorated pavilion playing current hits as well as seasonal favorites such as Monster Mash. Some kids and adults come in costume so the people watching is really fun.
As the evening ended, we waited in the pavilion and heard reports from a couple of hay riders and other volunteers about what a good job the Glee group had done. When the performers started arriving in the main pavilion post-show, everybody was happy and excited. They had even changed up the program part way through and danced to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The Metroparks provided a pizza party for all the volunteers so the kids and adults got to have a really nice post-performance meal. Andy ate four pieces of pizza! It was a real joy to look around and see all the happy faces of the many volunteers, mostly students, who gave their time to make the event such a success.
We drove home with two tired out performers, Andy and his friend, Alan, who lives in our neighborhood.
All the way home they talked about what a great time they had.
The Halloween Hayrides are held on Friday and Saturday nights for 3 weekends in October. I would encourage you to go but you’ll have to wait for next year – the event is completely sold out for this year. If you decide to visit next year, be sure to get your tickets early. If you or your group would like to volunteer, contact Lake Metroparks. I’m sure they can always use more hands.
If you live in Lake County, please vote YES on Issue 7 to support the Metroparks. Andy and his friends would love to continue to participate in the many Adapted Programs offered – hiking, boating, learning about nature and just having fun. Maybe they’ll be on the Glee Thriller stage again next year!