By Raiza Giorgi

Solvang Parks and Recreation Director Fred Lageman says that he loves his department’s annual haunted house because it brings out more than just terrifying screams. It also brings out all the volunteers who put it together.

“One kid that started in high school has come back every year, even now as he is in medical school,” Lageman said.

Another local volunteer that Lageman can’t wait to see is Athena McCandlish, who he says always comes up with the most intricate costumes really gets into character.

The 26th annual community haunted house, with the theme of “Fright Farm” this year, will return Oct. 30-31 to the Solvang Festival Theater along with its Halloween Street Fest.

A more kid-friendly version for young children will be available from 6 to 6:30 p.m. each night. A scarier version for older children and adults will run from 6:30 to 9:30 pm.

The terrifying haunted house and friendly street festival are organized by Solvang and Buellton’s Parks and Recreation departments. For just over 25 years, it has been a valley tradition to brave the approximately 20-minute guided tour through the theater building and grounds. More than 2,000 people walk through the mysterious haunted house every year, raising around $20,000 for Parks and Rec programs.

Lageman is in charge of the theme, storyboard and set design of the event, which he usually spends the previous year in planning.

The haunted house does take Lageman away from spending the holiday with his family, as he has never gone trick or treating with his kids, but instead the kids love helping out behind the scenes, and making those memories are just as precious to him.

“This year, though, they want to just experience the tour as if they’ve never seen it, so I fully intend on scaring them,” he said with a laugh.

Lageman says he encourages his staff and volunteers to work the event in shifts so that no one else misses an opportunity to trick or treat with their families if they want.

This year’s haunted house still needs about 30 monsters (actors) and another 20 tour guides, as well as volunteers to help with the construction and dismantling of the set. Applications are available in the Solvang Parks and Recreation office or on For more information, call 805-688-PLAY.

Tickets are available online on the city’s website and, as well as at the door.