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Fear on the Farm takes its Winfield haunt outdoors

WINFIELD — Lee Jordan has been a Halloween and haunted house fan since he was a kid.

“I remember decorating my basement,” Lee said. “I had no budget. I’d use ketchup for blood.”

He made a terrible mess and Lee remembered his dad, Steve Jordan, would hit the roof about the mess.

The memory made Steve wince a little, but Lee, the owner of Lee’s Studio of Dance in Winfield, laughed. He got his father in on the act a long time ago.

Six years ago, Lee opened Fear on the Farm, in Winfield, a spooky seasonal attraction that typically includes elaborate fright scenes, animatronic monsters, and a small army of creepily costumed actors in makeup and masks.

Every year, the “haunt” grew and expanded with the crowds, which some nights snaked from the building into the parking lot. Lee added a gift shop and the attraction continued to grow.

But then COVID-19 happened and everything shut down.

Lee wasn’t sure whether Fear on the Farm would be able to open in the fall, but with restrictions loosening over the summer, it looked like there was a way to keep some of the spooky fun of Halloween going — and then the fire marshal told the Jordans they needed to install a sprinkler system.

“There are rules and authorities,” Lee said. “We’re about following the rules, keeping everybody safe and having a good time.”

They decided to open anyway, though they’d keep their attraction outdoors, which satisfied the issue with the sprinklers and reduced the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

Fear on the Farm began seeing visitors in early September, ahead of most other Halloween attractions.

While the coronavirus canceled fairs, festivals and concerts through the summer, it has had less of an effect on the ghastly getaways of fall.

Fright Nights at Glade Springs Resort in Raleigh County, The Go Go Scare Show in Ripley and The Haunted Majestic in Huntington, among others, are all open for the season or plan to open before Halloween.

“We’re all friends,” Lee said. “We support each other. It’s a tough time. We’re all trying to move forward.”

Moving forward during a public health crisis has meant making changes.

This year, Fear on the Farm has moved outside the over-sized barn on the property and is entirely outdoors. It’s a haunted trail that goes up the side of the hill, through a small corn maze and past a fenced pasture where a neighbor raises goats.

Lee laughed. The bleating of goats does sort of fit the theme of the season.

The attraction is as packed with as many thrills and scares as Lee can fit into it, while observing the prescribed safety considerations, like social distancing and good sanitation practices.

Leading up to the entry point, there are markers for social distancing. Lee has installed sanitation stations, and everybody wears a mask.

That includes the cast for Fear on the Farm, as well as visitors.

You just can’t go in without a mask on.

So far, Steve said, that hasn’t really been a problem.

“We thought maybe we’d have one or two people who’d want to buck the system,” he said. “But so far, we haven’t had any trouble, really. I think they get it. If you buck the system, you’re just going to get things like this shut down.”

And it was such a long summer with so little to do. People are hungry for something besides another safe night at home, camped out in front of their televisions.

“Next to Christmas, Halloween is the most popular holiday,” Lee said. “Between the trick-or-treating and the costumes for the kids and the scary stuff, it’s just a lot of fun.”

Crowds have been steady with people from all over the region coming in to take the trek up the trail or calling to make sure that they’re open.

Steve said he’s fielded calls from little old ladies who want to bring their grandchildren.

“I told her the kids could do the trail, but that maybe she shouldn’t,” he said.

“It’s a good cardio workout,” Lee joked.

That first hill does look pretty steep.

Making Fear on the Farm work during the pandemic takes extra work. Lee said he polices the line getting onto the trail to make sure people are keeping socially distanced or staying within the groups they arrived with.

Visitors on the trail are staggered — some in groups and some alone.

“But if you come alone, you’re getting the scare full barrel,” Lee laughed.

Groups that arrived together can go up the hill together and can help each other down.

An outdoor haunt isn’t ideal for Fear on the Farm. Like any other outdoor entertainment, it’s prone to weather. The attraction is also smaller. Some of Lee’s best effects are just too cumbersome, complicated or heavy to bring outside, forcing him to rely more on his performers. There aren’t as many working for him this year, but Lee said he got the best of who was available.

This year’s crew is dedicated, he said, adding that Halloween haunted houses tend to attract certain kinds of people to work in them — including, now, a buddy who will never — ever — leave.

“We had a friend who really loved the scary stuff, but he wasn’t well,” Lee said. “When he died, he said he wanted his ashes to be part of the attraction.”

The man’s remains are built into a piece of the indoor set.

Lee said they were grateful for all the community support. It’s not just locals showing up to spend money on the attraction, but people want them to succeed.

For example, Lee said the fodder shock — dried husks — used for his corn maze was donated by Gritt’s Farm, just up the road.

“I called them. They brought a truckload of it down on a flatbed truck,” he said.

They’re trying to give back, too.

On Oct. 25, Fear on the Farm is hosting free Trunk or Treat with Adventure Academy and Daycare in Winfield.

“Abbie Fisher at Adventure Academy really deserves a lot of credit for this,” Lee said. “She wanted to do something fun for the kids.”

Jordan said he and the staff at Fear on the Farm are doing the best they can. While he was fairly happy with what they’ve come up with for their Haunted Barn Trail, he was looking forward to (hopefully) a more normal year next year.

“We’ve just got to keep moving,” he said.

Cabell County nears 1,000 positive cases

HUNTINGTON — With 988 confirmed cases as of Sunday, Cabell County is nearing the 1,000 mark.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department reported 326 active cases Sunday. Due to increased spread, the health department is offering additional testing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, outside of the health department at 703 7th Ave., Huntington.

In Wayne County, the health department reported 429 confirmed cases Sunday including 43 active.

Statewide in West Virginia, there were 215 new cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday, for a total of 18,128. There was also one new deaths — a 71-year-old woman from Kanawha County — for a total of 382 deaths related to the virus.

Total cases per county are: Barbour (139), Berkeley (1,222), Boone (268), Braxton (20), Brooke (137), Cabell (1004), Calhoun (30), Clay (49), Doddridge (51), Fayette (691), Gilmer (51), Grant (174), Greenbrier (140), Hampshire (117), Hancock (172), Hardy (99), Harrison (528), Jackson (316), Jefferson (476), Kanawha (3,099), Lewis (48), Lincoln (198), Logan (686), Marion (322), Marshall (205), Mason (156), McDowell (99), Mercer (467), Mineral (183), Mingo (441), Monongalia (2,157), Monroe (169), Morgan (74), Nicholas (142), Ohio (414), Pendleton (57), Pleasants (20), Pocahontas (61), Preston (171), Putnam (707), Raleigh (608), Randolph (321), Ritchie (19), Roane (70), Summers (63), Taylor (151), Tucker (47), Tyler (22), Upshur (179), Wayne (438), Webster (13), Wetzel (69), Wirt (20), Wood (411), Wyoming (137).

In Ohio, the Lawrence County Health Department reported 13 new positive cases of COVID-19, with patients’ ages ranging from 11 to 67 (four of whom are children). There have been 811 cases reported in the county, with 709 out of isolation and 24 deaths. Ten are currently in the hospital with four in ICU.

Statewide, there were 168,749 total cases as of 2 p.m. Sunday, with 4,999 deaths related to the virus.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and his family were potentially exposed to the virus Saturday after a member of his security detail drove with the family and then learned of a positive test later in the day. The family is quarantining, even though they have negative test results so far.

Statewide, there were 852 new cases, for a total of 80,292. The new cases included 90 children 18 and younger, one of whom is just 23 days old. There were also three new deaths for a total of 1,252.

More than 53,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the U.S. on Sunday, for a total of 7,694,865, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 213,614 deaths related to the virus.

The Associated Press reports that for most people, the novel coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.

City seeks to extend COVID relief package

HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington is looking to once again extend its fee and tax relief program as part of its continued efforts to lessen the financial burden on businesses and residents during the coronavirus crisis.

The Huntington City Council will hear the first reading of the ordinances extending these relief benefits during their meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The council meeting can be streamed at https://www.cityofhuntington.com/city-government/public-meetings/.

The package is an extension of what council members first approved in mid-March and eliminates the $20-per-month refuse fee for residents, as well as reduce business and occupation tax for retail shops and restaurants in the city from .25% to 0%.

If approved, refuse fees will be eliminated until Dec. 31, 2020, and the tax reduction will be in effect until Jan. 1, 2021.

In other business, council members will vote on a budget revision for the city’s 2020-21 general fund. The revision would remove $127,920 for the city’s contingency fund in order to pay for an additional auditor in the city’s finance department as well as three trucks for three new housing inspectors previously approved by council.

The additional auditor will assist in the city’s increase collection effort and cost $45,360.

The allocation for the three new trucks is $82,560.

If approved, these purchases will lower the city’s current contingencies fund to about $6.7 million.

The council will also vote on a resolution approving the purchase of three new Ford F-150 trucks for three new city housing inspectors, the funds for which were allocated in the budget revision.

The three trucks will cost a total of $78,360 and will be purchased from Stephens Auto Center in Danville, West Virginia.

Also up for approval Tuesday night is the acceptance of a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant.

The grant is for a total of $40,619.56 and requires a 10% match or, $4,061.96, from the city.

The funds for the grant will be used to make repairs and upgrades to Stations 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10 within the Huntington Fire Department.

In other business, council members will vote on a contract to replace a section of sidewalk on the south side of 9th Avenue from 16th Street to 19th Street. The lowest bid for the project was from Paving Solutions in Ashland at a cost of $101,146.

The project will be paid for out of the Public Works Department’s capital outlay — improvements sidewalk program budget.

Council members will vote on whether to approve the renewal of a contract with ESCI in Redlands, California, for software being used by the city’s development and planning department.

The contract renewal request is for an additional three years and will cost a total of $115,500.

The contract will be paid for using funds from various departments and divisions including the city’s IT department, the Sanitary Board, Stormwater Utility, the fire department, the planning and development department, the police department and the streets division.