Published October 24, 2019



NORTH READING — On a perfect fall evening, hundreds of happy ghosts, goblins and characters galore descended upon the Haunted Playground at L.D. Batchelder School Saturday night.

Judging by the success of the event it is hoped it will be the first of many annual Halloween Haunted Playgrounds by the event’s new hosts, the Masquers drama club at North Reading High School.

Featuring food and fun, live music and dancing, theatrical skits, midway-style games, an inflatable haunted maze, and many other attractions, the town-wide celebration of the spookiest of holidays was enjoyed by all ages.

MAGICIAN Jim Loscutoff performed two magic shows and strolled the grounds performing mini shows for the revelers attending the Haunted Playground Saturday. (Michael Geoffrion Scannell Photo)

The Masquers took many of the elements of previous Halloween Fests that had taken place at either Clarke Park on Martins Pond or at the “Batch” and, in some cases, improved upon them. In addition to all of the exciting offerings, the Masquers organized the usual scavenger hunt with a new twist. Instead of searching for inanimate objects this game involved families seeking out actual characters in costume who were roaming the grounds. With clues in hand such as “Who lost her glass slipper?” “Who fell off the wall?” or “Who was afraid of the big, bad wolf?” roving groups of children and adults could search together for Cinderella, Humpty Dumpty or the Three Little Pigs. Such activities helped pass the time while waiting in line for a haunted maze tour or a hayride by Krochmal Farms of Tewksbury, or simply while enjoying the festive events throughout the playground like face painting.

Other elements familiar to experienced Haunted Playground-goers were the kids’ games, such as bowling, fortune teller Madame Pravda (Martins Pond resident Kaye Kittredge), and magician Jim Loscutoff, who did two full shows and also wandered the grounds in between show to perform close up magic.

“I’ll never forget seeing the students’ faces as the afternoon melted into dusk and the families started to arrive,” commented Allison Kane, performing arts manager, theatre arts director and teacher at NRHS. “They were prepared, they were excited, but they were nervous.”

Everywhere you looked there was a themed-activity taking place. Extremely excited children in their Halloween costumes bounded off the shuttle buses from the high school, scrambling, breathless, trying to decide what to do first. Look one way there was ring toss and bowling. Over there was popcorn and cotton candy. At the same time, in a lighted area by the fence, North Reading High School’s a cappella ensemble, NOTEorious, was performing.

There were also substantial food choices, all hot and delicious, featuring local flavors like pulled pork sliders from the Horseshoe Grille, macaroni and cheese from Kitty’s, Harrow’s chicken pot pie, rice bowls with crab rangoon from China Cuisine, and Papa Gino’s pizza as well as hot dogs, chips and ice cold drinks.

“At the end of the night, when you’d think they’d have been tired and run down, the Masquers’ crew was soaring high,” Kane said. “They loved performing for everyone. They loved the laughter and smiles they saw on parents’ and kids’ faces alike. They saw what all their hard work had produced and they were so proud.”

“As their teacher, I couldn’t ask for anything more educational than this process, from beginning to end. What a great lesson — while it may not be easy or quick, team work, persistence, patience, planning, and positivity can get you to your end result — with a little added sunshine in your life,” Kane believes.

“I am so grateful for all the town officials who worked with us. I am floored by the turnout. It was an amazing tradition that we are honored to become a part of. We wanted a way to give back for all the support we get for our shows and the arts in general,” she said.

Not looking in the rearview mirror for long, Kane said the Masquers is now shifting gears to focus more on their next show, “The Music Man,” which will run the first two weekends of December for four shows (Friday nights, Dec. 6 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday matinees on Dec. 7 and 14 at 4 p.m.). “We hope to see everyone there!” Kane said.