Sunset Zoo hosts annual SPOOKtacular event

Kaden Littrell, sophomore in marketing, gives out K-State athletic posters to trick-or-treaters at the Sunset Zoo's SPOOKtacular event on Oct. 24, 2015. (Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

Halloween came a week early at the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan Saturday and Sunday. Children of all ages filled the zoo disguised as princesses, goblins, seahorses, cowboys, news reporters and more, to participate in SPOOKtacular.

Preparation for this year’s event began more than a week in advance. Zoo staff, along with several hundred volunteers from local businesses and nonprofits, decorated the zoo’s pathways with pumpkins from Britt’s Garden Acres, according to Ella Casey, assistant zoo director. Stations where participants trick-or-treated were set up along five pathways. Sunset Zoo purchased more than 6,100 pieces of candy to distribute during SPOOKtacular.

“I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough to all of the wonderful volunteers and businesses who make this weekend a hit year after year,” Casey said. “It wouldn’t be possible without the community help we receive.”

Fair weather throughout the weekend brought an attendance of more than 5,000 people who participated in a wide array of events throughout the zoo. Along with trick-or-treating stations, visitors to the zoo competed in daily costume contests, ran through a straw bale maze and watched performances from Manhattan High School and K-State students.

On Oct. 18, K-State students in Interior Architecture Design Studio 1 traveled to the zoo to meet with clients, Zoo Sprouts Childcare Program students, for their latest projects.

For six years, students taking IAPD 307 in the fall semester carved pumpkins to be displayed at the zoo during SPOOKtacular, and this year they were given the challenge of working with clients 2-5 years old.

“Creating a five-year-old’s interpretation of an animal takes focus,” Kaylee McIlvaine, sophomore in interior architecture and product design, said.

The project was more than a break from studio as students had the chance to work on different media forms, in addition to working with actual clients.

Each Zoo Sprout was matched up with two K-State students and was instructed to draw his or her favorite animals. Once the drawings were given the final OK from the Zoo Sprout clients, the K-State students were left alone to carve the pumpkins. The carving designs ranged from squids and monkeys to cats and a wolf-man.

The pumpkins were numbered and put on display at the event over the weekend, and community members in attendance were able to vote on their favorite carvings.

SPOOKtacular weekend entertainment changes from year to year, but one group has been represented for over six years – the K-State Tap Ensemble.

The group had 15 of its 22 members present at the zoo Saturday. Guests stopped to watch and children danced along to the music during the hourlong performance for visitors to the zoo.

The ensemble performed 10 dances, taking a break in the middle for some audience involvement. As Halloween music played, children were welcomed up to the stage with the performers to learn how to tap dance.

“We like asking kids to dance,” Abigail Owen, senior in nutrition and kinesiology, said. “They have fun being involved.”

SPOOKtacular began as an after-hours terror trail geared toward adults, according to Casey. The transition to a family-friendly event for all ages, inviting area residents to come to the zoo and trick-or-treat while enjoying a fall day at the zoo, came more than 15 years ago.

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Taylor Underwood, sophomore in hospitality management, hands out candy to trick-or-treaters at the Sunset Zoo's SPOOKtacular event on Oct. 24, 2015. (Miranda Snyder | The Collegian)

See more photos from the event