STORY BY ALICIA FEYERHERM
VIDEO BY TIM SCHOEPFLIN
Hays Community Theater hosted Haunted Hays Tours on Friday and Saturday nights.
The tour started in 2015 as a fundraiser to add handicap-accessible bathrooms to the old community theater building on 11th street.
“We couldn’t open to the public for any events or anything until we had the handicap restrooms in place,” event organizer Sharona Fondoble said.
The event was so successful it continued each year. This year’s event saw more than 200 guests attend both Friday and Saturday nights.
“It’s fun for the actors, it’s fun for the people who go through it,” Fondoble said.
The tour incorporates characters from Hays’ history like Buffalo Bill and Elizabeth Polly. The Ellis County Historical Society allows the theater to use their property, which Fondoble says adds to the authenticity.
Participants are also led down a haunted alley which does not follow a historical theme and is more of a haunted house experience. A chicken exit is available for those who do not want to walk through the alley.
There is no minimum age for the tour.
“It just depends on your kids,” Fondoble said. “We don’t know everybody’s kids.”
A few scenes include fake gunshots which can be startling for small children. Groups with children also tend to skip the haunted alley.
Over the years, tours have stayed somewhat the same, with little changes made each year to improve the tour.
“We have people that they choose to be the same role every year,” Fondoble said. “So they will find themselves better costumes to make their character better.”
An average of 60 volunteers help with the event each year, but Fondoble said ideally, there would be around 80.
“We usually have to cut scenes because we don’t have enough people,” Fondoble said.
Most of the volunteers are adults, but occasionally younger children will volunteer with their parents. FHSU student Khendal Wimberly volunteered this year.
“I have been on a theater hiatus since the pandemic and I have always wanted to something of this type like a haunted house or trail, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity,” Wimberly said.
While many of the volunteers have acting experience, it is not a requirement.
“The most important thing is that you show up,” Fondoble said.
The event is a rather low commitment with one walk-through day and two performance nights. Interested individuals can find contact information on their website htcks.com or on their FaceBook page.
“Come have fun,” Fondoble said. “It’s a really fun thing to do.”