After 19 years, the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department's annual Halloween Harvest Festival has developed some treasured traditions.
There's always a hayride, kids' games and rides, a Halloween costume contest for kids and even a masquerade contest for pets. But if you ask county recreation manager Harry Johnson what the real attraction of the festival is, he will tell you it's the haunted house.
"I'm told it's pretty interesting," Johnson said. "At least that's what I hear from the kids. They seem to have a ball with it."
For the longtime organizer of such county-sponsored events as the Father-Daughter Dance, the Easter egg hunt, the Mutt Strut and Soggie Doggie Day, the Halloween Harvest Festival, which takes place this weekend, is one of Johnson's favorites because it serves such a diverse group of youngsters.
"I think the fact that we try to keep things as inexpensive as possible opens it up to a lot more people," Johnson said. "With the way the economy is these days, there aren't many things that families on a limited budget can do together."
Indeed, Johnson said event organizers, which also include the Spring Hill Rotary and Brooksville Kiwanis clubs, take a special interest in keeping the festival affordable for families. There is no admission charge, and many games, activities and food items cost $1 or less.
The two-day event relies on a small army of volunteers, mostly from the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and from the county parks, Johnson said. Proceeds are split among the entities, with the Parks and Recreation Department's share going to support children's sports and recreation programs. For the past two years, Rotary's share has gone toward completing a dog park facility at Centennial Park in Spring Hill.
The Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department's Halloween Harvest Festival runs 6 to 9 p.m. today and 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday at the Hernando County Fairgrounds, S Broad Street (U.S. 41), Brooksville. Registration for the pet masquerade and costume contests begin at 6:30 p.m. Contests start at 7 p.m. Admission to the event is free. Game tickets are four for $1. Haunted house admission is $3. The cost of the hayride is $2. For information, call (352) 754-4031.
If you go
Other Halloween activities
• Arc Nature Coast annual Halloween Dance, 7 to 10 p.m. today, West Hernando Middle School, 14325 Ken Austin Parkway, west of Brooksville. The event will include a DJ, food and door prizes. Admission is $2 per person. Donations of door prizes for this event are appreciated. For information, call (352) 544-2322 or (352) 232-5727.
• Northcliffe Baptist Church Children's Ministry Fall Festival, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. today at 10515 Northcliffe Blvd., Spring Hill. There will be carnival games, inflatable slides, snacks and candy. Kids are encouraged to wear costumes (not too scary). The event is free. For information, call (352) 683-5882.
• "Nightmare on Explorer Street" Halloween event, 7 to 9 p.m. today, Explorer K-8 School, in the cafeteria, 10252 Northcliffe Blvd., Spring Hill. The event includes a haunted house, face painting/tattoos, dancing, refreshments, and costume contests for children and adults. Prizes will be awarded. The event is hosted by the school's PTA and the YMCA School Age Program. Admission is a $2 donation to benefit the YMCA's annual giving campaign. For information, call Theresa at (352) 686-9622.
• The Haunted Trail on Golddust, 7:30 to 10 p.m. today and Saturday and again on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 5277 Golddust Road, Spring Hill. Visitors can take a guided tour along a wooded trail; appropriate footwear is recommended. The cost is $3. All proceeds will be donated to Hernando-Pasco Hospice and the Humane Society of the Nature Coast. Take Barclay Avenue, turn west on Highgrove Road and left onto Golddust. For additional information, call 263-8044.
• Wild n' Wicked Nights at Weeki Wachee Springs, 7 to 11 p.m. today and Saturday , 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. The event will feature "The Joker's Last Laugh" mermaid underwater show, haunted forest, "Spirits of the Spring" boat ride, dance show, "not-so-scary" train ride for kids, a scream contest and costume contest. Admission is $12.95 plus tax for adults, $10.95 plus tax for ages 3-10, and free for season passholders. For information, call (352) 596-2062.
• SPCA of Hernando County's Howl-O-Dream open house, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday , 9075 Grant St., west of Brooksville (off Sunshine Grove Road). There will be games, freebies, giveaways, samples, a pet costume contest, vendors, food, face painting and balloons with Catch-Up the Clown. DJ Tommy T will entertain, and tours of the facility are available. The thrift store will be open, and pets will be available for adoption. To volunteer for the event, call Tracey at (352) 584-6949 or 442-4647 . For information on the event, call the shelter at (352) 596-7000.
• Holy Cross Lutheran Church youth Fall Harvest Festival/Community Yard Sale, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 6193 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill. There will be a pumpkin patch and food available for purchase. Vendor spaces are available for $10. For information, call Wanda at (352) 683-5310.
• Latin American Civic and Cultural Association Halloween Dance, 8 p.m. Saturday, SNPJ Lodge, 13383 County Line Road, Spring Hill. Music will be provided by DJ Jose Perez. There will be costume contests for adults and children, with prizes awarded. Tickets are $10 for members and $12 for nonmembers; tickets for children younger than 12 are half price. Those attending can bring their own beverages. For tickets or information, call Carmen Shannon at (352) 263-5098, Elsa Serrano at (352) 688-5890 or Ana Burgos at (352) 688-0763.
• Halloween Carnival with Reithoffer Shows, hosted by the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Hernando 2008 Class, Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in the parking lot at Lowe's, 4780 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. The event is 5 to 11 p.m. Oct. 30; 5 p.m. to midnight Oct. 31; 1 p.m. to midnight Nov. 1; and 1 to 10 p.m. Nov. 2. Armbands will be sold for the Oct. 30 and 31 events as well as from 1 to 6 p.m. Nov. 1 and 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 2. Ride tickets will be sold for 6 p.m. to midnight Nov. 1 and 5 to 10 p.m. Nov. 2. Advance armbands are $15, $20 on event days. Ride tickets will be 15 for $1.
Advance ticket locations include Cortez Community Bank, 1000 S Broad St., Brooksville; and Re-Max Advantage Realty, 4320 Lake in the Woods Drive, Spring Hill.
For information or to make a donation, call the chamber at (352) 796-0697.
• "Trail of Fear 5", 6:30 to 10 p.m. Oct. 31, 10557 Gifford St., Spring Hill (off Elgin Boulevard). There is no cost to go on this haunted trail. However, it may be too intense for small children. For information, call (352) 686-0592.
• Hernando Heritage Museum's annual Haunted House, 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 601 Museum Court, off Saxon Avenue, downtown Brooksville. Admission is $5 per person. Tours of the haunted house will be provided; it is recommended for ages 8 and older. The cost is $5 per person. There will be a food booth outside with hot dogs and baked goods. Also, ghost tours of the home are offered from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturdays throughout the year for $20; reservations are required. For information, call the museum at (352) 799-0129.
• Youth X-Plosion 2008, 7 p.m. Oct. 31, 15531 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville. This is a Christian concert that will feature area performers Fuego & Ice, Rody, Alexis, G.I. Joe, Testimony, Mesianico, Shake Tha Ground, and Yariel and Omy. Free food will be available. Admission is free. The concert, now in its fifth year, is organized by the youth at Iglesia Pentacostal Arca Evangelica. For information, call David at (352) 442-5218.
• Trunk or Treat at Christian Church in the Wildwood, 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31, in the new building parking lot, 10051 Country Road, Weeki Wachee. The event will also include face painting, popcorn, snow cones, a dunk tank, cotton candy, raffle and a sports challenge. For information, call (352) 596-1388, ext. 810.
• Christian Life Assembly of God's annual Harvest Fest, 6 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 31, 13065 Jacqueline Road, west of Brooksville. There will be games, inflatables, food, clowns, candy and prizes. There will also be a drawing for door prizes for those who register. Admission is free. For information, call (352) 597-1139.
Adults only events
• Alpha Delta Beta's charity masquerade ball, 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Heather Country Club, 7406 St. Andrews Blvd., Weeki Wachee. This is an adults-only event that will include catered hors d'oeuvres, music and a cash bar. Costumes are required. There will be a best costume contest, door prize raffles and a 50/50. Tickets are $25. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Fostering Hope Florida.
RSVP to Rebecca at (352) 584-9064 or e-mail your guest list to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit
• Halloween Costume Party at Aripeka Elks Lodge 2520, 6 p.m. Saturday, in the lounge, 9135 Denton Ave., Hudson. Prizes will be awarded for the best costumes. Admission is free; food will be available to purchase. Music will be provided by Sweet Charlie. For information, call (727) 863-2520.
• Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8681 and Ladies Auxiliary Halloween Party, 7 p.m. Saturday, 18940 Drayton St., at County Line Road, Shady Hills. For details, call (727) 856-1860.
• Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8713 and Ladies Auxiliary Halloween Party, 7 p.m. Oct. 31, 1686 E Jefferson St., Brooksville. There will be a costume contest, games, food and karaoke with Bob and Jeannie. Call the post at (352) 796-4449.
• Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10209 and Ladies Auxiliary Halloween Bash, 8 to 11 p.m. Oct. 31, 14736 Edward R. Noll Drive, Spring Hill. There will be live entertainment and a costume contest. Admission is free. For information, call (352) 796-0398.
• The Hernando Beach Club's Halloween Night of Horror, Oct. 31, 3145 Flamingo Blvd., Hernando Beach. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The Starburst Duo will entertain. There will be a parade of costumes. Prizes will be awarded. The event will also include games, food and eerie music. Goldie the clairvoyant will give guests a glimpse into their futures. Tickets are $11 for club members and $13 for nonmembers. All tickets must be prepaid by Saturday. For information, call Bunni at (352) 688-4976.