Fright Night Returns for its 27th Year


    Happy Howwwlll-oween!

    Ghouls & goblins, Spiderman and Wonder Woman, monsters and pirates and ghosts and cowboys and ballerinas will take over the Bay Oaks Recreation Center campus on Friday, October 20, for the 20th annual “Fright Night” from 6 to 10 p.m.

    “’Fright Night’ is an exciting community event, based around Halloween,” explained Sean DePalma, the Parks & Recreation Director for The Town of Fort Myers Beach. “We convert the Bay Oaks Recreation Center into a giant haunted house. We will have a haunted trail outside as well, along with an escape room that is new this year, so we are going to give that a try. There will be candy all evening at stations around the recreation center, and the first 500 kids get a great gift bag full of candy! We will have Halloween-themed music piped over the speaker system, with costume contests for five different age brackets including adults, along with carnival-style games and food for sale, like hot dogs, hamburgers, and beverages.”

    DePalma cautioned, “The haunted house will be scary so be ready! However, if you have young children, we really calm things down from 6 to 7 p.m. so bring them at that time. After that, however, it is a true haunted house, so prepare for anything. Even if you feel your children are too young for the haunted house, they will still enjoy the games and costume contests and of course there will be plenty of treats!”

    Bay Oaks will have a Snapchat with available filters near the haunted house location. “This matches up with what we have been doing lately with our social media,” explained DePalma. “We are upping our ante on sites like Facebook, as that now drives a lot of our information and business. We would like to hear from Town residents as to their favorite online information tool, so that we can concentrate our efforts.”

    As for “Fright Night,” they are still looking for candy donations. “They must be individually wrapped for safety reasons,” DePalma said, “so we cannot accept any open candies or anything homemade, not matter how delicious it may look! One of our Town Council members already made a significant candy donation, and we really appreciate her contribution!” To arrange to make a candy donation, please contact Sarah Mayher by Tuesday, October 17, at 239-765-4222.

    Keep The Change!

    If you would rather make a financial donation, DePalma’s best advice is that you “just come to ‘Fright Night’: admission is $4 per person and $10 for a family of four. If you want to make a monetary contribution, you are more than welcome to do so when paying for your admission – we’d be glad to keep the change! All of the monies stay at the Bay Oaks Recreation Center, to sponsor our enrichment initiative series that is adding additional emphasis on science and art programs. We are really growing that aspect of our curriculum.”

    Parks & Recreation will close the Bay Oaks Recreation Center from Wednesday, October 18 through Sunday, October 22, to set up, then store away the haunted house and related activities, though the Club Rec afterschool program will still occur on its regular days. Parks & Recreation’s full & part-time staff are the true monsters of the evening, frighteningly assisted by roughly 30 volunteers. “We are still looking for a few more volunteer spooks, so if you have the spirit, contact us soon,” said DePalma. “For our staff, it is all hands on deck!”

    The Bay Oaks Recreation Center is at 2731 Oak Street, adjacent to the Beach Elementary School, with hours Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and closed Sundays. The Fort Myers Beach Community Pool at 2600 Oak Street, next to Bay Oaks, is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays Noon to 6 p.m. Admission is $4 members ages 13 & up and $7 nonmembers, and $2 children members and $5 nonmembers. The pool will be closed Friday, October 20th.

    While “Fright Night” is in its 27th year, it will be the first for DePalma, who became the Town’s Parks & Recreation director in January. “What I hear is that Town residents think of it in two ways, depending on their age: kids and younger adults love that it is a true haunted house, while families and older adults are passionate about it being a fun community activity that kicks off Halloween and really the Holiday season. People tell me that ‘Fright Night’ as a community event transcends ages and backgrounds, and allows Town residents to usher in the Holidays before the arrival of tourists and snowbirds, when everyone because busy and hectic for the next half-year. For islanders, this is tradition and their kind of event!”


    Gary Mooney

    Photos circa 2013 by Sarah List.