Scares to support soldiers: Support Our Troops Haunted House returns for 15th year in Farmington

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Support Our Troops Haunted House hopes to connect you with your worst nightmares at the Fright Night Resurgence in Farmington.

"This year's haunt has some of our greatest scares with a twist," said Jason Schmidt, marketing director with Support Our Troops Haunted House in Farmington that is open the first two weekends in October at the Dakota County Fairgrounds.

"We took some great scares and made them better, along with a few surprises inside," Schmidt added.

One greatest hit scary room that will return include Twister Sister or the No Way Out room.

"Don't worry, there is a way out," Schmidt said, jokingly. "Yes, we may have clowns and we are fairly positive that Jason Voorhees will not be there Friday the 13th."

As a Farmington resident for five years, Schmidt became involved because his son Andrew wanted to learn about theater and how haunted houses are created and operate.

"So I told him to find an organization and I would help him learn," Schmidt said.

Today his son is pursuing a career in the movies in college. He gained years of experience scaring thousands of guests at the Support Our Troops Haunted House.

Founders Germaine and Grant Beyl created the Support the Troops Haunted House 15 years ago on their homestead in Castle Rock. They enlisted the help of close family and friends to decorate the farm and a barn. They saw the event growing when hundreds show up to support the troops and moved the house to the Dakota County Fairgrounds in Farmington.

"It started out on a very personal level and they found out at the time there were many needs of soldiers and they found out people really liked receiving letters," Schmidt said.

As a highly decorated veteran, Grant, along with both sons Grant, Jr., and Brandon have given back with service and sacrifice to their country.

"Germaine puts her heart into the event and the Beyls still love the event and love scaring guests," Schmidt said. "It is still very passionate for them because they still know many soldiers and families who appreciate what they do."

Each year Grant dresses as Jack Sparrow from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series, and he usually welcomes guests at the entrance. As director of the growing operation, Germaine dresses as a witch or in a festive costume.

"Each year it gets better and the event is all volunteer-based, and all work together to make it better than the previous year," Schmidt said.

Volunteers have been working all year to design frightful rooms and scenes that will surely scare visitors. Each room is designed to engage all the senses with haunting images, scary sounds, foul scents and even tactile touches like delicate, hanging spider webs.

"Volunteers have been prepping sets and characters for several months looking to scare everyone inside and out," Schmidt said. The event calls for detailed planning with prop collection, room design and volunteers who work hours to design and set up props, do makeup and tear down afterward.

Since the haunted house is designed for youth 12 years and older, this year organizers will offer a magician and face painter that can entertain all outside the haunted house.

Last year attendance soared to more than 2,000 guests, who formed long lines outside the fairgrounds 4-H building. The outside area is decorated with scary scenes and ghostly creatures who roam the grounds.

"Our group also strives to raise community awareness by honoring these soldiers and all who serve to send a message to them and to the community that they have not been forgotten," Schmidt said. "The funds raised support the overall organization and this serves as the primary fundraiser that helps support the care packages that are sent overseas."

Many soldiers receive welcome-back home bags or those who are deployed receive them around the holidays. Many care packages are also given to readiness groups.

The care packages are filled with letters, cards, treats and special things that let each soldier realize the service he or she gives and the sacrifices made for their country are appreciated and honored.

Military families are admitted to the haunted house for free with a current military ID.

"One-hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to supporting our military and their families," Schmidt said.

For those who prefer to give back to the troops and military families, you can make a donation or send a check to: Support Our Troops Haunted House, P.O. Box 13, Farmington, MN 55024.

If You Go

What: Support Our Troops Haunted House 15th annual event — Fright Night Resurgence

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. two weekends, Oct. 6-7, Oct. 13-14

Where: Dakota County Fairgrounds, 4008 220th St. W., Farmington

Cost: $5 donation and all donations welcome to support the troops. The event is free to all military families with current ID card.

A magician will perform shows Friday nights outside the haunted house. Food is offered inside the 4-H building with all beef hot dogs, chips, candy, soda, coffee, hot chocolate and treats.

Connect on Facebook or go online at www.supportourtroopsHH.com.