• James Armstrong

Annual Haunted House event scares up funds for Saint-Lazare Optimist Club


PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

With the help of family, friends, and neighbours, Saint-Lazare residents Alain Grégoire and Nicole Du­bois (standing at opposite ends of the pillory) have been busy converting their property into another macabre setting for zombies, witches, and all matter of frightening surprises all to raise funds for the Optimist Club.

Each year for the past 12 years, Saint-Lazare residents Alain Grégoire and Nicole Dubois have turned their home and property into a Halloween Haunted House attraction.

“I do it because it makes so many people happy,” said Grégoire when asked what motivates this annual effort.

“Each year it gets bigger because we keep adding things to it,” he said Sunday, October 21 as approximately a dozen volunteers worked in the chilly wind to build the sets and install the mannequins.

Dedicated volunteers

“About 30 of our members volunteer to help out with the set-up and clean-up,” said Johanne Bérubé, Director of the Optimist Club of Saint-Lazare describing how the planning begins in June. “We have teams and we try to share the workload.”

The tour begins on a path that takes visitors on a surprising, and sometimes frightening, tour of zombies, witches, werewolves, and pirates, just to name a few. An executioner’s block is a new addition to this year’s event.

There are also two cinemas featuring ticket booths giving away popcorn and horror films. A pillory has been installed for patrons to take photos and includes animated mannequins activated by motion detectors, special lighting and sound. Six dancers from Studio Funky Steps in Vaudreuil-Dorion will also be on-hand dancing in the street next to a simulated car accident. Several members of the Sunday afternoon team had the task of collecting several thousand cornstalks. “We use them throughout the site as background and to divide one area from another,” said Bérubé.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Community support

“We have two huge witch’s cauldrons for collecting donations,” said Bérubé. The money collected is used by the Optimist Club to support events in the community throughout the year. “We are really grateful to our sponsors,” said Bérubé. Pharmaprix Saint-Lazare donated candy for 1800 treat bags, Tim Hortons Saint-Lazare on Sainte-Angélique Road is providing a kiosk where hot chocolate and coffee will be available and Énergir (formerly Gaz Métro) donated money to offset the cost of food and supplies. “We had an assembly line of volunteers to fill those bags, so it went very quickly.”

Halloween evening

On Wednesday, October 31, the grounds of 2236 de l’Orchestre Street will be open at 5:30 p.m. to receive thrill-seeking trick-or-treaters, young and old alike. “Everyone is welcome,” said Bérubé noting that over the years, people have travelled from Montreal to take in the event.

“There are no words to describe how much fun and how magical it is,” she said with a smile. She pointed out that part of de l’Orchestre Street would be closed to vehicular traffic by the Saint-Lazare Fire Department for safety and security reasons.

“There’s one entrance and one exit to help prevent a blockage,” said Bérubé.

As the event has grown each year, it has spilled out into the road and onto neighbouring properties – with the owners’ permission. Costumed volunteers are on-site throughout the evening to assist and direct visitors as they follow the path through the maze of macabre displays.

See more photos on our Facebook page.

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