by Lorie Lewis Ham
At the end of this article is a chance to win 2 passes to The Grove for this Halloween season!
Halloween fans in the Valley will be happy to know that The Grove Haunt in Sanger, formerly known as Hobb’s Grove, is returning to scare you this Halloween season.
According to owner Lore Callahan, in 2010 irreconcilable differences between the shareholders of Hobb’s Grove Inc. led to the dissolution of the corporation, which formerly operated the haunted attraction. “The haunted attractions and pumpkin patch will reopen this season as The Grove, and will be filled with new energy by the same cast of ghouls and performers as before under the same leadership and management of the original creators,” said Lore.
Lore’s connection to haunts began in 1988 in Dunlap with her friend Kim. “My friend Kim was the force behind the original haunt. After the first year I was hopelessly hooked and loved creating the other worldly realms for people to loose themselves in at Halloween time. I never thought that our just for fun haunting would turn into what it has.”
In 1991, they moved to Kingsburg to start the night events at Satterstrom’s, and created what Lore believes is the first major commercial haunted attraction in the area. New ground was needed to be able to grow, so in 1999, the move was made to Sanger where Hobb’s Grove was created and it operated under that name until 2010. “Throughout the years the people who work with me as set designers, actors, etc., have become a tight knit group that is more like a family than a group of co-workers,” continued Lore. “The group has grown through the years and most of the actors return year after year because they truly love what we do.”“Working at The Grove is probably the most satisfying job I will ever have,” shared Chris Giese, River City Theatre Co. actor who has become well known at The Grove for his character Billy Bob Hobb. “I get to plan, design and create really awesome scenes. Make original props and costumes. Then go act and entertain crowds of people during our operating hours while savoring the continuous amounts of screams and laughter as our patrons experience the events.
”I wish it would never end. And the icing on the cake is that the person I work for, Lore Callahan, is one of the most kind, thoughtful, and generous people I know. Without her, none of it would be possible and she is the coolest employer I have ever had. I am truly blessed to have her in my life. She treats the entire crew with respect and understanding. We are all like family. I think that’s what makes The Grove so successful.”
Each year The Grove has a little over 100 actors, including people from all walks of life and all over the Valley. “Some even return from out of state every year to take up their place among the frightening,” said Lore. “We really do have an over 80% return rate each year…it’s a professional crew as well as a family reunion for sure.”
Those who attend The Grove each year can expect fun, excitement, anticipation, fear, startles, laughter, good food and entertainment, continued Lore. “They experience a night in the dark with friends and family doing something they’ll talk and laugh about for years to come. They experience the intensity of a haunted house, the unpredictability of a haunted forest and the spectacle of a moonlit hayride. They experience a night away from the TV under the autumn stars chatting it up by a fire…how’s that for the complete Halloween experience?”
“It is a lot of fun and a good place if you want to get scared because it seems there is something new around every corner,” said 16 year old Hannah Camp, who goes every year.
Her sister Sara agrees. “It’s cool because each year it is something different, never the same as the year before.”
“My kids love it and always look forward to it,” stated their mom Melissa. While Melissa doesn’t go herself, with her older daughters having worked there in the past she has witnessed all of the hard work that goes into it each year with the planning beginning months in advance.
“We start the day after we open planning for the next year,” said Lore. “We always have an abundance of creative ideas that flow most freely when the screams are echoing through the site and throughout the rest of the year we bring them from imagination to reality. We’ve been doing this so long together that we share the same creative force and can finish each other’s visions. Every year the attractions and characters develop and evolve into scarier and creepier incarnations.”
Hundreds of hours of artistic and creative talent each year go into creating the unique atmosphere that covers the 24 acres, but according to Lore, the hardest part of the job is having to wait a year before doing it all over again for their customers. “The reactions and enjoyment of our customers is by far the most rewarding to all of us who work to bring this together.”
Tanamin Clark has been working at The Grove since 2001 and says they truly have something for everyone, even those who would rather laugh at their friends shrieking and running around than be scared themselves. “That’s part of what makes us so successful as a haunt: we know there are different kinds of people, and we have a little something for them all.”
The Grove also offers special tours for schools and other groups—with more info available on their website. “There is something here for all ages,” said Lore. “Our lines have many grandparents, parents and kids all going through together. If someone isn’t loving the being scared thing, which I SO understand, the midway is a great place to eat, shop and people watch.”
After missing last year, Lore is excited to return. She feels now that they are back there will be a new level of appreciation for such a unique place. “There are very few if any places in the country that have devoted this much time, land, cost and energy into something that’s open for only 18 nights…and that’s if it doesn’t rain. It usually does. Weather in most of the country doesn’t allow for something like this to be possible. For the most part we expect the energy level to be elevated among crew and customers alike.”
During the rest of the year, when they aren’t busy planning for the next Halloween season, there are weddings and other events at The Grove, including a Bluegrass Festival the end of September.
The Grove is located at 14265 E. Goodfellow Ave., South East of Sanger. Lore stated that everyone needs to take Central heading East from Academy / Newmark this year as the Goodfellow bridge is still under construction.
The Grove will open Friday, Oct. 7 and run through Sunday, Oct. 30 – weather permitting. They are closed Mondays & Tuesdays, except for Tuesday, Oct. 25. Parking and ticket booth opens at 5:30 p.m., concessions soon after. The ticket booth will close Sunday, Wednesday & Thursday at 9:30 and Friday & Saturday at 10:30. Their open to all pumpkin patch is only the last two weekends October 22-23 and 29-30. The Haunting begins at dark.
Individual tickets for the Haunted House, Haunted Forest and Haunted Hayride are available as well as Combo tickets, which include all three attractions. All tickets can be purchased at The Grove the nights they are open or on-line and printed from your computer with no waiting in the ticket line. Or Combo tickets can also be purchased at Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis or Roller Towne in Visalia. For more details including ticket prices, special discounts, and more, check out their website.
To enter for a chance to win 2 passes to The Grove for this Halloween season, simply enter by commenting on this article or sending an email to KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Grove”. A winner will be chosen October 2, 2011. Staff of The Grove or KRL do not qualify to enter.