Grab your best costume, a non-perishable food item and prepare to be scared when heading to Birch’s on the Lake for Bradley Hansen’s annual Halloween Haunt on Thursday, Oct. 31.

Now in it’s 13th year, Hansen’s Halloween Haunt has provided a safe place for Halloween enthusiasts and people looking for an opportunity to dress in costume to enjoy a haunted house and participate in a costume contest all while donating non-perishable food to the Westonka Food Shelf and Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (IOCP) food shelf drive.

Hansen started the haunted house in 2005, when his daughter Jade was just 10-years-old. A family friend was visiting from the Dominican Republic and was curious about what Halloween is and how it’s celebrated. Hansen took that opportunity to throw a party for his friend and offered prizes to any that participated in the costume contest.

The event started at his horse farm in Medina with approximately 75 people. Pumpkin-carving along with decorations and the haunted house also drove people to his door.

“The next year, we had over 100 people. It kept growing every year. The house in Medina really worked well. [It] had a four-level split,” he said.

The garage and the lower basement was the hub for the haunted house. Hansen said he set it up where guests walked through the garage into the lower level where they then would make their way up to the third level where the bar and all the entertainment was.

“We had the backyard all creeped out too,” he added.

As the years went by, the haunted house and the decorations grew with the number of attendees.

Once Hansen moved from his farm in Medina to a house in Orono he planned to host this event again; however, the new house came with some unforeseen difficulties.

“Once I moved from the farm to my house in Orono, it was different. I tried a haunted house and it wasn’t the same as Medina. It became a big flop. One day before the big event, I drove home after work and saw all this stuff all over the neighborhood. To my surprise it was everything we did. All the decorations we put up had blown into the neighbor’s yards. The whole haunted house was destroyed by high winds,” Hansen said.

The haunted house did continue at Hansen’s Orono home. He decorated the entire house as haunted, had bands set up in the garage and the yard and kept adding to his collection of decorations; however, the event grew to a size that his home could no longer handle.

“Then my house couldn’t take it anymore. [There were] too many people and you couldn’t move around,” he said.

The 10th annual haunt was moved to Lord Fletcher’s and happened to land on a Saturday night, which was perfect timing.

“No one has ever rented out [or] reserved a private event that took over the whole place. Trust me, we filled it with hundreds of people coming and going,” he said.

The event eventually grew even larger, which caused Lord Fletcher’s to say they had enough and Hansen took the next year off. Birch’s on the Lake decided to work with Hansen and host the event.

The Halloween Haunt will take place from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. and warns guests if they “show up late...You’ll have to eat your way in.” Cash prizes will be awarded for winners of the Costume Contest. First place prize is $1,500 Las Vegas slot machine, scariest, funniest and sexiest winners will receive $100 cash plus gift cards.

The first 300 guests will be named VIPs and everyone is encouraged to bring a bag of food for the IOCP. Hansen has donated a 24-foot trailer full of food every year of the event. Live music will be performed by the Sunshine Committee Band, free appetizer food trays will be provided as well as discounted drinks.

Tickets can be purchased at the door on online for a discounted price. https://birchsonthelake.com/event/

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