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Organizers preparing for inaugural Cumming Scare Fair
Scare Fair 1
A makeup artist gets an actor ready for the Cumming Scare Fair, a haunted house and other events at the Cumming Fairgrounds, during a recent dress rehearsal. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

The barn at the Cumming Fairgrounds was littered with body parts, disheveled people walking around with open wounds and the distant sounds of screams recently, but still, it seemed like everyone was having a good time.

Last week, actors and volunteers did a dress rehearsal for the Cumming Scare Fair, which will be held at the fairgrounds on Oct. 18-19 and 25-26. The first-of-its-kind event will feature a haunted house in the fairground’s barn along with a midway of food, games, vendors and acrobatic performances, all to raise funds for Relay for Life and The American Cancer Society.

“This is kind of a preliminary rehearsal to get everybody assigned to their roles and get our timeline down before show nights, [and to] let our makeup and costuming get the gist,” said Kevin Hopkins, who is in charge of actor training, costuming and makeup for the haunted house.

“And to make sure that we have all of our systems up and running and working with our security team. We just want to get a good feel for a show night before we go,” continued Jeff Maney, who did creative design and building for the haunted house.

Concerts, parades and all other sorts of family-friendly events are common at the fairgrounds, and while the Scare Fair will be open to everyone, organizers with said they’re working to make it terrifying and it might not be suitable for all visitors.

“We recommend 13 and over,” Hopkins said. “The Scare Fair … where we’ll be having a midway, it’s going to be kind of a family-friendly, food trucks and all that, while inside the haunt itself, it’s not just a fun type of thing. It’s going to be full-on, ‘This is designed to scare.’ We look at the psychology of the scare and really look at ways to watch that ebb and flow.

“Things are going to build, things are going to fall. Some people are going to be on their toes, some are going to be relaxing and we’ll [scare] them at those points. It’s designed to be a very scary experience.”

The haunted house’s plot centers around a mysterious outbreak of infections in Cumming. Organizers didn’t want to give too much away, but said of the haunted house, “You get to enter the facility, find out what’s going on inside, what it’s doing to people and see if you can survive that.”

During the rehearsal, some volunteers were finishing sets and getting props ready. Others were working on their lines and many were getting into costumes.

“So far, I’ve been doing kind of everybody’s makeup, depending if they’re less infected, really infected,” Alyse English, a sophomore at North Forsyth High School. “For masks, I’m just going to help people put black around their eyes and their mouths so everything kind of blends well.”

Part of the makeup included prosthetics, such as mouths, boils, lacerations and extra rows of teeth, which English said was “a lot more fun that regular glam makeup because there’s no real limitations; you can always be more creative with it.”

While English has practiced doing makeup on herself, she said it was a little more difficult working on others on a deadline.

“It’s stressful because I’m usually used to having all the time to mess up, try it again, take everything off, do something else that I wasn’t planning on doing,” she said. “For this, you have to have a set plan.”

Rena Pendley, with the American Cancer Society, which will receive proceeds from the Scare Fair, said the group is used to using the fairgrounds for their annual Relay for Life event, but a haunted house and other Halloween attractions is something entirely new.

“All I can say is it's different,” she said. “We have the two aspects to it. We have the more adult scare, then the kids’ things going on … outside. It’s a little bit different mindset when you’re working, but it’s so much fun.”

While using the fairgrounds has a lot of benefits, it has one notable challenge: the Cumming Country Fair & Festival will be held Oct. 3-13, leaving just days before the opening.

“One of the hurdles with doing this event in this location is the fair itself,” said Jeff Maney, who said he did his first haunted house at 11. “It’s a wonderful event for the community, but us sharing this site means we’ve had six weeks to build what we want to build inside, and starting this weekend, we have to tear it out and let the fair come on the grounds to do the fair. When the fair vacates, we can come back and rebuild. That’s a very unique thing about this location.”

The Scare Fair also has some other challenges normal for an inaugural event.

“Most haunted houses start their planning in February. We started ours in July, so we’ve really had just two months to plan, get all the materials, get them here, get help to build it here and figure out how we’re going,” said Project Manager Julia Maney.

Yet another challenge is a relative lack of volunteers, and Pendley said there are still plenty of ways to get involved.

“We have probably 60 people here tonight. We need 60 more people,” said Pendley. “If they’re interested in being part of the acting team or helping to volunteer in some way, they can just contact us.”

Pendley said that those interested in volunteering can call her at 770-374-0926. More information and tickets are available online at CummingScareFair.com.

Admission is $15 for both the haunted house and the midway or $5 for just the midway.