So how old was ET really? Anyone who attends the Pageant of the Monsters staged this year by the same creative crew that puts on the “Pageant of the Masters” might just find out whether the lovable alien has remained a kid or died a codger. An alien autopsy is among the anticipated ghoulish pageant features.
After a five-year hiatus, the popular Halloween extravaganza is back, running Friday through Sunday, Oct. 25-27, at 6 p.m. and on Halloween night on the Festival of Arts’ grounds.
Other homegrown traditions promise no shortage of Halloween fun. El Morro School expects a costumed invasion of small-fry today at its annual carnival, while teens with a taste for the macabre can get a thrill at CarnEvil, a “graveyard” surfacing for the third year near Oak Street, the town’s most popular trick-or-treat haunt.
Under creative guidance from Pageant director Diane Challis Davy, 100 volunteers and workers will inhabit a haunted house replete with roaming ghouls, ghosts and goblins, zapped out zombies and fortune tellers, live music and a steady soundscape to provide an eerie atmosphere.
The Monsters caps off the Pageant’s 80th birthday celebrations, and volunteers have been eager to participate. “Everyone is rushing in on Friday from their regular jobs to get ready, since no one knows if and when this is going to happen again,” she said. What will ultimately become of the tradition is up to the Festival of Arts board, she added. “It’s a blue moon, since we don’t know if the cast can muster the strength to put on such a show every year,” she said.
The attraction had previously been staged in 1996, ’97 and 2007. This year, Art-A-Fair, the Sawdust Festival and the Laguna Playhouse are also joining, setting up craft booths where ghosts made from yarn will roam, everyone can play Halloween bingo and children can create their own masks.
Inspired by a Titanic memorial sculpture previously featured in a Pageant, Davy wrote the story line which, not to give too much away here, takes place on a sunken ship. “We are repurposing stage props and work rooms to create corridors of a sunken ship back stage at the Pageant and sideshows on the festival grounds,” she said.
Among sideshows that include arts and crafts booths and games designed to recreate ghosts, the “demented chef” should evoke howls and laughter. Davy aims for merriment along with fright. “I like to tell people that ours is a haunted house that is humorous and whimsical, not gory with too much blood and guts. We emphasize the spookiness,” she said.
Elsewhere, skeletons, rats, ghouls and other creatures the imagination can conjure and Laguna Beach resident Kristy Amber can build alone or with the help of friends inhabits CarnEvil. The haunted house and graveyard at 637 Glenneyre St. is in its third iteration, and has become something of an institution among neighbors not only for it’s ghoulish fun but also for the good causes it espouses.
The community is invited on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. As previously, Amber, 34, asks for donations, which she disburses as she sees a need. “I do it all on my own credit card and donations go to people or, like this year, to an institution that needs help,” she said.
On Halloween night, CarnEvil will host a private party as not to compete with the open neighborhood Halloween revelry on Brooks and Oak Streets.
A passionate hobby turned into charitable endeavor for Amber when a neighbor, Brita Corradini, developed breast cancer. At age 31, expecting her first child and with her husband Andrew a local freelance musician, medical bills threatened to overwhelm. Amber, a massage therapist, stepped up. “Not only did I have a neighbor that cared about our situation but the whole community supported us,” Corradini said.
Proceeds from last year’s haunted house went to John Genesta, a Sawdust Festival artist grievously injured in a fall while building his booth, Amber said. The family could no longer afford to remain in town and funds help with moving costs, she said.
This year’s donations are earmarked for Laguna’s CSP Youth Shelter, a transitional living facility for teens countywide, who need temporary refuge.
“I am not connected to the shelter but I understand that state funds had been cut and they can use the money,” Amber said.
Fund raising also motivates El Morro’s Boo Blast, now in its third decade. Proceeds from this year’s Friday Night Frights fund extra-curricular programs.
Created on a rock ’n’ roll theme, it offers rides, art and crafts booths, cake walks and costume contests and is open to the public.
“It’s all done by volunteers and local sponsors,” said El Morro PTA president Roshaunie Siriani. “Kids are encouraged to come in costume and perhaps win a medal,” she said.
Festivities run from 2:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. Shuttles will bring visitors from parking at Reef Point and Crystal Cove to El Morro, which does not offer parking.
What may become a new Halloween tradition sets out on Saturday, Oct. 26. Bicyclists will pedal to the Transition Laguna seedling stand at the Farmers Market by 10 a.m., setting out in Halloween costumes and noisemakers to promote bicycling as a safe and encouraged activity.