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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY OLIVIA SMITH, St. Petersburg High
Teenagers are being respectful, lines at rides and haunted houses are 10 minutes at the most, and the whole excursion costs less than M.A.C foundation. That is not a fictional, utopian version of the season’s theme park scare fests, but reality at ZooBoo at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.
ZooBoo is in its 14th year, is a fundraiser for the nonprofit zoo, and is advertised as being family- friendly, which is no doubt much of the appeal. Most of the patrons in attendance Saturday were under age 11 (and all in adorable costumes). Although the target audience is definitely in the elementary school range, there were many high school students having a blast.
“It’s a little more on the young side, you can definitely tell, but it’s been really good,” said Matt, a senior at Bloomingdale High who didn’t want to give his last name. “The decorations are amazing.” Matt and his friends came because of the close proximity and the cost.
Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream is about $55 when you buy online, and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights is about $90. A cool $17 will get a teenager into ZooBoo.
Julianne, an eighth-grader at Farnell Middle, who didn’t want to give her last name, confesses that she and her friends came to ZooBoo because they were too scared to go to Howl-O-Scream or Halloween Horror Nights. “We came here because we thought it would be more mild,” she said. They were in no way disappointed by the PG atmosphere. “We were actually really terrified,” Julianne said with a giggle.
The five haunted houses, referred to simply as the “haunts” by Lowry Park staff, are rated on a scare factor scale of one to seven skulls, with one skull the tamest and seven skulls “scary to the extreme.” Although most of the haunts were not especially frightening, they were impressive and trippy to look at (it will take a while to forget about the 3-D house).
But some were genuinely scary. At a couple of the houses there were almost as many people leaving prematurely than entering, because of the scare factor.
One little boy, crying on his way out, tried to get the last word. He screamed at a scare actor dressed up as a zombie: “You don’t get paid enough!”
“I don’t get paid at all,” retorted the zombie. “I’m a volunteer.”
ZooBoo has 50-70 volunteers a night, mostly Tampa high school students looking for service hours. Jobs include working the concessions, rides, games, monitoring the stingray area and dressing as a scare actor. That position is so coveted that kids come hours before to secure roles as plant monsters, zombies, creepy butlers and more.
Brandon Silvasman and Christian Moll, a freshman and sophomore at Gaither High, have been volunteering at ZooBoo almost every night since it opened. “I’m here for my community service ribbon and to help out the zoo, since I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” said Moll. Silvasman said he mainly does it for the kids. They have been plant monsters, butlers and zombies, and have helped out with the stingrays and the game yard.
“My favorite things is doing the zombies, because it’s fun to scare little kids,” admits Silvasman. “The thrill of the crowd is (also) fun.”
The volunteers appear to have almost as much fun as the guests, which is really saying something.
Get your scare on
ZooBoo continues at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo through Sunday. 7-10 p.m. today and Sunday; 7-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Teenagers/adults are $17.