Panic Park delays opening due to soggy stretch

When it comes to the flooding that happens in Cedar Falls, Rotary Park (the location of the well known Panic Park) is no stranger. Having taken flood damage during both 2008 and 2016, Panic Park has had to close down and miss out on a full month of profit because of rushing water that overflowed from the nearby river that destroyed the haunts’ walls and floors. 

With this water damage along with the loss of money from being closed, the haunted house misses out on quite an opportunity to make some good profit that could be used to fix, improve or even expand the haunted house. Though, the profits aren’t the only thing that matter. 

Panic Park has many regular volunteers who drive down every year just to join in on the scary fun that takes place in the park. These haunters wait anxiously every year to see if they’ll have to stay home this October, keeping their eyes on the weather and talking with the local park rangers in an attempt to calm their nerves. 

These workers have become close friends over the years of working with each other, and the thought of missing out on such a unique opportunity to dress up and cackle evilly is something that makes them, well, sad. “As someone who has helped rebuild after two major floods, this makes me nervous as a cat,” local scarer Marie Lemka, who’s been working with the park for countless years as a witch, fortune teller, nanny and other scary figures said. “As a fundraiser for the county parks, if we don’t open, it puts a huge dent in what they can do to provide for park users the rest of the year. As someone who loves to haunt, it is absolutely depressing that we might not open.” 

Another scarer, Courtney Durbula, said, “I am very anxious because I hate having to wait to see whether or not we can work the haunt this year. It is possibly my last year of being able to go out every single weekend, so I really want to be able to go out and do what I love.”

While volunteers may be sad about the park closing from flooding damages, that doesn’t mean they ignore it for the rest of the year. Many volunteers work on the haunt outside of the actually haunted house, including one haunter named Trevor Swingen, who, “Works on whatever I can to make the haunt better for next year.” This includes helping fix up new rooms to scare newcomers and working on his own personal costume. 

Another scarer, Ariana Wilson, gathers up things for her costume to improve on it for next year, plus plan a Halloween party for all the haunt veterans.

Even with all the options during the scary month, Panic Park will always be more important to these scary actors, which makes sense considering all the years they’ve worked for the park rangers and all the good memories they formed along the way. Durbala recalled during one scare, she “slipped off of some props and landed on my hands and knees on the hardwood floor, and didn’t miss a beat. I scared the living daylight out of the group that was coming in at that exact time.” 

Wilson also recalled how much fun it is for her, “It’s invigorating and almost empowering. I’m a short person, and when I’m able to scare 6-foot-tall grown men, it’s not only hilarious, it’s an amazing experience.” 

She once even scared a group so bad, they fell to the ground and into the next room, and she said that she also had to hold off the group behind them so the poor customers wouldn’t get trampled on.

While it may seem like Panic Park is closed this year with all the rising water levels, they’ve actually only pushed their opening date a week later. This specific haunt provides a fun scare and experience for all who go, along with a free round of zombie laser tag with the purchase of a ticket. 

Panic Park opens on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. Afterward, Panic Park will be open every Thursday (7 p.m.-10 p.m.), Friday and Saturday (7 p.m. – 11 p.m.) for the rest of October. 

They will also be open on Halloween night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the cost for a ticket is $15 per body. 

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