Ames Haunted Forest to miss first season in 20 years due to COVID-19, Iowa derecho
Spooky seekers will have to wait another year to be chased out of the Ames Haunted Forest by a person with a chainsaw.
The popular October attraction has become yet another annual event to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, Ames Haunted Forest co-organizer Lee Ballard confirmed the attraction will not take place this year due to a shortage of interest from college-age actors.
"When I put an email out to our actors, 50% said they were in, and the other 50% weren't sure," Ballard said. "Without actors, we're unable to do it, plus the fact that I think it's the right thing to do with what we're dealing with right now."
Although the attraction is an outdoor event, Ballard said there could be scenarios where people are within close proximity to one another.
"I'm sure there's a chance they'll be close to people," Ballard said. "We just thought it was the best thing to do."
Last year, the forest celebrated its 20th anniversary in the community, where co-organizer and Lee's brother, Lynn, said the attraction's goal to feature new exhibits annually.
“Ames Haunted Forest since 1999 has been a family tradition, and October is by far our family's favorite time of year,” Lynn said previously.
In the past 10 years, the forest has closed a couple of days due to weather, though this is the first time in 20 years it has closed for an entire season, Ballard said.
"It's a big event as far as income," Ballard said. "My family does it and we all have our regular, full-time jobs, so it's not like we don't have anything to do. But it is what it is; there's nothing you can control."
The decision to close the forest was made sometime mid-August, Ballard said, after the derecho knocked down a few trees in the area, and the Ballard family discussed the possibility of the attraction beginning in October, he said.
"You can't control the weather, you can't control COVID ... and it's one of those things that you deal with it and move on," Ballard said. "We were fortunate to go 20 years without a hiccup to speak of, and so now we'll get through this thing and we'll I'm sure be bigger and better next year."