Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend Features - 10/28/2012

Latrelle Polk, 6, of Uniontown practices his batting with his stepfather Jamie Ray at Bailey Park in Uniontown, Monday afternoon. Polk just finished his first season with the R.W. Clark Indians and is looking forward to a second.
Kaydence Mehls (left), 7, of Hopwood and her friend Madison Reynolds, 6, of Fairchance work together to scale the jungle gym at Hutchinson Park in South Union Township, Monday afternoon.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekend Features - 10/14/2012

Anthony Ransome of Uniontown, a senior linebacker for Laurel Highlands Area High School varsity football, carries his brother Dakota, 5, on his back as he traverses the jungle gym Sunday afternoon at Eberly Park in North Union Township. Ransome plans to spend as much time with his brother as possible since he plans to attend Penn State University next fall to pursue a nursing degree.
Chris Swaney (middle) of New Salem builds a sandcastle with his sons Logan (left), 3, and Hunter Lindsey, 8, Sunday afternoon at Areford Park in South Union Township. Swaney and his boys were out taking advantage of the warm weather that was sweeping through the area on Sunday.
Mya Murray, 10, of Uniontown sinks a free throw Sunday afternoon at Hutchinson Park in South Union Township. Murray has been playing for the Uniontown YMCA League as well as the Penn State Church League for the past three years.
Brandon McDowell, 12, of Hopwood reels in his line Sunday afternoon at Hutchinson Sportsman's Club in South Union Township. McDowell has been fishing since his father taught him when he was three years old.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend Features - 10/7/2012

Kim and David Silvio play fetch in the newly fallen autumn leaves with their basset hound bulldog Mugsy Saturday afternoon at Ohiopyle State Park. Kim and David are avid campers and have been up to Ohiopyle nearly six times so far this year.
Adam Palya (left) and Rich Show practice their archery in Palya's Hopwood backyard. Both have been hunters since they were children and have been bow hunting for nearly two years.
Rhonda Gournic of Mt. Pleasant plays fetch with her golden retriever Emma in the Youghiogheny River Saturday afternoon at Ohiopyle State Park. Gournic says that during the summer months Emmais capable of swimming nearly all the way across the river.
Horses graze under the autumn foliage Sunday afternoon in a field on Kentuck Road in Stewart Township.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fright Farm, Behind-the-Scenes - 10/4/2012

A grotesque figure greets visitors to Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pa.
Take one creepy old farmhouse, toss in a few dozen ghouls and monsters, then mix with a healthy sprinkling of spooky music and lighting and you end up with a deliciously frightful night on your plate with a side of excitement.

2012 marks the 23rd annual Fright Farm, a haunted attraction in Smithfield that has been named one of the best in the country. Founded in 1990 by the Rich family who owns the property, Fright Farm was born from a wild idea the family came up with one evening after surveying the stone farmhouse.

“Our architecture is amazing,” said Michael Rich, one of the founders and general managers of Fright Farm. “Our towers, our stone structures and the entire house look like a big old mansion... it just has this creep to it.”

The event consists of a haunted hayride, a maze and the mansion itself. Every year has a unique theme. This year’s theme, “Farmageddon,” is reminiscent of a cursed apocalypse.

Rich explained each theme relies on his and his brothers Tom and Mark’s combined creativity. Tom and Mark also serve as general managers for the event.

Construction of the event begins in the summer months with June marking the beginning of this year’s haunt. A crew of around 10 people begin by tearing down the haunts and themes from the previous year and continue to erect new walls and create new spooks. The attraction’s farm location is an advantage as it allows for extensive landscaping for exterior scenes. An on-site nursery provides materials for elaborate cemetery and cornfield scenes.

“From there it just keeps building,” Rich said. “I think by this past week before we opened we had probably about 30 people on it.”

Over 100 different scenes must be torn down and rebuilt each year throughout the three haunted areas. Rich describes it as building a movie set and doing their absolute best to create the most immersive scenarios by stimulating as many senses as possible.

“We always say ‘when the show starts it’s just like you’re walking through a movie.’” Rich said. “When people start the tour... they go through all of the different scenes and because of all the different effects and sounds they kind of get lost in the atmosphere.”

Rich says that he takes a considerable amount of inspiration from famous movie figures, particularly the work of Alfred Hitchcock who used three aspects of fear in his movies: Suspense, shock and horror.

“I always say that there’s a fourth [aspect]: Humor. When you walk through this you take an emotional trip. You want to feel happy. You want to feel scared. It’s like a good movie which takes you all over the place emotionally,” Rich said.

Ray Thomas is transformed into "The Doctor" by Rich Geisinger 
for the 23rd annual Fright Farm in Smithfield, Pa
Staffing for the haunts begin nearly two months prior to opening.

“We interview probably about 500 to 600 people for about 100 acting spots,” Rich said. “We train them, we have acting coaches [and] our makeup [and costumes are all] professional because we want to deliver real live horror here.”

Casting for the event is done by Rich’s daughter Allison who analyzes all the talents of the actors and casts them in the specific roles based on their skill sets and qualities.

Some roles require high amounts of energy or abilities to memorize lines while other roles call for someone who can be silent and mysterious. Rich recalls an actress in the early 1990s whose entire role was to lie in an open casket and open her eyes when visitors leaned in close to examine her.

“We try and create all of our own characters while still giving each one a specific flavor, so sometimes quiet is better,” Rich said.

Once the casting for the night is complete, the actors head inside to get into costume and makeup. Westley Loukota, head of the costume department says that actors begin arriving 2-3 hours prior to opening so that they have enough time to get into costume and makeup since they only have about 8 makeup artists for the hundred or so actors.

Marge Smith is a first-year actress at Fright Farm and is cast in the role of “The Salty Pig” butcher who chases away anyone who tries to steal the meat that she processes. Smith says that she uses the time spent in the makeup chair to get into character.

“I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do with my scene and how to handle to props in order to give the customer the best possible experience when they come through the house,” Smith said.

Rich went on to describe the training that goes into each role. Acting coaches and choreographers are on-site to direct new actors in the basics of the role to ensure that they know the concept of the role and know all their lines.

“It’s whole a process of getting here, getting cast, getting trained, getting into costume and then when the curtain comes up we’re ready,” said Rich. “Everybody’s in place once it gets dark, the music is playing and all you see is a big movie set.”

Fright Farm runs Wednesday through Sunday up through the first week of November. For prices or more information, go online to

Fright Farm - Smithfield, PA from Joel Brewton on Vimeo.