December 6, 2021

Dwyer Memorial park hosts ‘Ghosts in the Park’ this weekend

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Dancers from the Cortland Performing Arts Institute operate Jolene, a 15-foot skeleton Saturday at the “Ghosts in the Park” event at Dwyer Memorial Park in Preble. The event allowed people to meet Halloween characters without leaving their car.

Lizzie Borden stood steadfast behind her gravestone, holding up an ax; the Headless Horseman remained motionless on his horse and Jolene, a 15-foot skeleton, moved its limbs in slow motion. And yet, no one was scared.

These were all just a part of Saturday’s “Ghosts in the Park” at Dwyer Memorial Park in Preble. The event, hosted by the Cortland Repertory Theatre in conjunction with SUNY Cortland’s musical theater department, the Cortland Youth Bureau and the Cortland Performing Arts Institute, had guests drive through the park as Halloween characters interacted with guests, be it in a spooky or not-so-spooky way.

“It’s just something to do for people who aren’t comfortable trick-or-treating this year with everything that’s going on,” said Kerby Thompson, the theater’s producing artistic director.

The event was put on following the success last summer of Stories in the Park, he said. Similarly, that event allowed people to drive through the park and interact with fairytale characters from their cars.

The pandemic, which canceled all of the theater’s shows, has “forced us to be creative like this,” Thompson said.

The guests, though, which total more than 700 cars from all three event times — Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening — liked the event as an activity to do on Halloween.

Dracula, performed by Michael Williams, hisses at a car Saturday during the Ghosts in the Park event at Dywer Memorial Park in Preble. The event allowed people to meet Halloween characters without leaving their car.

“They had a good time,” said Josh O’Connor of LaFayette about his children, Natalie, 7, and Charlotte, 5.

Both of his children said their favorite character was the Headless Horseman, who was stationed on a living horse.

Because of the pandemic, Josh O’Connor said his family wasn’t going to do trick-or-treating this year.

“We’re just trying to do a socially distanced activity,” he said.

Ashley Green of Pennsylvania was visiting the area for a weekend trip and decided to go with her two children, Levi, 6, and Elizabeth, 2.

“It was really neat,” she said. “It was nice and slow and everyone seemed to have a good time.”

Levi said his favorite character was the skeleton, Jolene.

Green said she and her family weren’t planning to do any trick-or-treating Saturday evening but would look around to find light displays and watch them.

Thompson said the theater is trying to work on an indoor show for Christmas but nothing has been set.

He hoped that Ghosts in the Park would help create memories for young children of good shows like he experienced when he was a kid.

“Kids who go through this will come back to the park and remember what it was like to be here and it’s a good memory to have,” he said. “Like any theater, we hope to create strong memories, especially in a time that is very difficult.”