Vt. Community Group Adapts Haunted House for COVID-19 Era

The Swanton Village Fire Auxiliary’s weekend fundraiser sold out quickly

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Community volunteers in Vermont’s Franklin County are finding a way to bring people together safely for a spooky event during the pandemic, all while raising funds for a good cause.

“Yesterday, a lot of people left crying,” Ashley Dufresne of the Swanton Village Fire Auxiliary said of the PG-13 or R-rated Halloween drive-through the organization is hosting this weekend. “It was scary!”

The group, which supports firefighters with meals during difficult calls and helps its community in other ways, had a successful celebration at the firehouse last Halloween, but because of real-life fears over how experts say the coronavirus spreads much easier indoors, the auxiliary had to move its fundraiser outside.

Guests will drive through the property in Highgate that in normal years hosts the Franklin County Field Days, not getting out of their vehicles, for a series of scary skits.

Ticket holders are told to keep face coverings on to guard against possibly transmitting the virus while screaming.

Passes for a few hundred carloads sold out completely, and quickly, the fire auxiliary’s president told NECN.

“People want normal,” Ashley Chevalier observed. “All our volunteers, when they showed up for our dress rehearsal, they just said, ‘It just feels good to see people,’ you know? It’s not normal, but this kind of felt a little bit normal again.”

“It felt good to get out and do something,” added the organization’s vice president, Stephanie Cook. “And we knew we were doing it for the community, so it was important to try to bring us together, even if it is a drive-thru.”

The Swanton Village Fire Auxiliary said it considers its pandemic experiment such a success, it may well make it an annual tradition.

Chevalier warned against imposter accounts on Facebook trying to sell bogus tickets to the organization’s fundraiser. The true haunted drive-through is sold out, she emphasized.

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