Inviting all freaks, ghouls and goblins to the South Florida Fairgrounds for a scary good time.

By Darien Davies

It doesn’t matter if you scream, shriek, screech or squeal. All that matters is you go. Fright Nights is back to provide you with the greatest annual Halloween event that is guaranteed to get you scared in all the right places.

What first started at the South Florida Fairgrounds in 2002 with just a couple of mazes under an outdoor tent has now grown into much more. The organizers, Live Nation and the South Florida Fair, came up with the idea and brought the Haunt Houses team on board to bring the event to next level scary. Now, the event features scare zones, a carnival area with food and games outside, and four haunted houses under a covered, 25,000-square-foot Agriplex location on site. Bigger, better and BOO-ier.

“We care about the scare. Our focus is on creating lasting memories and blending fun and fear together,” said Craig McInnis, who joined the Haunt Design team in 2003 as a set designer, painter and scare actor, before moving up to become the creative director for the entire event. “As we grow, one of our biggest challenges is to make sure that our fans’ experience stays on point. Putting a lot of effort into haunt design, actor training and even line management all play a role. Large crowds are a great problem to have but we don’t want it to ‘water down’ the intensity of an individual’s experience. This will always set us apart.”

Fright Nights at South Florida Fairgrounds

Although there is no set theme for the event, they always have four different themed houses and two scare zones. For your frightening pleasure, this year’s houses will feature the final Chapter of Cuckoo’s Nest, an insane asylum full of maniacal clowns and lunatics; Sunny Shores Hotel, a decrepit building infested with the undead; Deadtime Stories, a brutal take on children’s bedtime stories and legends; and El Orfanato, an orphanage filled with unspeakable horrors and vengeful evil spirits.

The scare zones are located at the entrance and exit to the haunted houses so visitors must make their way through to visit the haunts. Wasteland is a walk through an apocalyptic world where crazies run free and stalk lost souls. Carnival of Creeps is the remnants of an old-time circus midway inhabited by freaks, goons, sideshow curiosities and of course, murderous clowns.

“Those who are there specifically to get scared are usually exiting the haunted houses laughing and screaming. We do pride ourselves on delivering a healthy dose of terror,” McInnis said. “Others come to enjoy the food and the games and carnival rides. Regardless, our guests are bound to have a fun experience at Fright Nights as there are so many different things to do.”

The overall goal for the team is to give everyone an adrenaline rush of fear and experience their brand of true terror and Halloween spirit. The entire creative team is steeped with knowledge about folklore, dark art, literature, horror movies and most pop culture elements that touch on Halloween and horror themes. This provides them with a “deep well” to draw inspiration from when they were coming up with concepts. So if it’s good for them, you know it’ll be amazing for you.

Fright Nights at South Florida Fairgrounds

The event is open from Friday, October 11 through Saturday, November 2 with a Behind the Scenes night on Thursday, October 10, which gives you access to the makeup, wardrobe, technical aspects and more. The park opens at 6 p.m. and the haunts open at 7 p.m., so this gives you time to enjoy the carnival rides, fair food and drinks, a virtual reality experience, a video game trailer with tournaments and open play, and of course the featured characters providing scares and memorable interactions.

Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable, close-toed shoes and, as most of the event attractions are outside, it’s recommended to dress cool. Each walk-through haunt is approximately 10 minutes, depending on the flow of the crowd and whether a guest speed walks or creeps through. There will be about 35,000-42,000 screamers joining you throughout the entire event so plan for lots of group screams.

Tickets are $30 per person, but they’ve got a scary good deal right now for BOGO tickets on Thursdays when you bring the coupon from their ad in our Sep/Oct Issue. Physical, printed tickets must be presented to take advantage of this deal and can be found at numerous places around town, including the Wellington Green Mall, Spirit Halloween in West Palm Beach, and numerous restaurants in Downtown Lake Worth. Follow FrightnightsSFF on Facebook for a complete list of locations.

It’s a ghastly fright that will last all night, so come one, come all, for the scariest event of them all. The memories will last you a lifetime, muah ah ah.

Check out the ad in our latest issue for BOGO Thursday tickets. It’s probably the best deal you’ll find…just sayin’.

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