With daylight fading and Halloween fast approaching, the Hancock College men's basketball program is preparing to unveil spooks and scares on unsuspecting Santa Maria residents with its third annual Frightmare Forest Friday night.
Participants will be tasked with navigating a 3-acre outdoor haunted maze that spans the college's baseball and softball complex and the adjacent vineyard.
"The word has been getting out; a lot more people are asking about it," said Tyson Aye, head coach of the men's basketball program and event organizer. Aye credits his family and upbringing with influencing his decision to put on the maze.
"The neighborhood in which I grew up in was really into Halloween," he said. "My brother did this at the college he was coaching at and it became really successful and transformed into a community tradition. I decided to take his idea and bring it to Hancock."
Participants can opt between two wristbands that signal to Frightmare workers whether to scare or hold back. Aye said the event is geared toward people of all ages, and that last year, a 3-year-old girl was able to navigate the maze undeterred.
"Nobody will be touched and the scarers can't run," he said, adding that he doesn't want participants to fall or run into a pole. "Even if you're not scared, you're having a blast if you're with somebody who is. There's a lot of laughter, people screaming and jumping -- it's great."
The Frightmare maze will provide an activity for the community while raising funds for the men's and women's basketball programs. At a price of $10 per ticket, proceeds will go to support team travel, equipment purchases and other expenses.
"We want to have as many people in the community come out for the event," Aye added. "It’s a win-win when we can bring people together for fun and support our athletics programs at the same time."
Between 50 and 60 student athletes expressed interest in volunteering for the event, according to Aye. While the event will provide financial support for both basketball programs, Aye touted it as an off-the-court bonding experience for various student athletes.
"We have a lot of other student athletes that volunteer with us," he said. "Having football players or softball players come out and enjoy it together is great."
With a majority of the planning complete, Aye said the volunteers are prepared and excited for Friday's opening night. "It's been fun to put something together for the community, we're all really excited."