Autumn events in the Ames area gear up for October


The Ames community can look forward to their favorite fall events this October. 

Rachel Kleszyk

As September draws to a close, October promises to bring colder weather and brighter leaves. For some, this means it’s time to liberate the old flannels sitting in a dusty storage bin. For others, this time of year marks the start of a bustling business season fueled by autumn fanatics and Halloween-lovers. Ames Haunted Forest and Spirits in the Gardens have chosen the latter, as preparations for their October events have begun. With thousands of Ames residents and Iowa State students anticipating the fall fun, both Ames businesses ready themselves for the busy month ahead.

Ames Haunted Forest opened its trails to the public for the first time in 1999, and has since worked hard to provide thrill-seekers with the most frightening sets and scares; even earning 5 out of 5 “pumpkins” on Owners Lee and Lynn Ballard employ around 50 Iowa State University students every season. Providing the forest, trail and lighting, the Ballard brothers give full creative control to the students, who develop the scenes and costumes displayed each year.

According to Iowa State Senior, Dustin Reis, the terror put on by Ames Haunted Forest begins even before the tour starts.

“My favorite part is when you are in the line and getting scared while standing there,” Reis said. 

Lee Ballard describes the student actors past and present as “such a good group of kids that just really put their heart and soul into it and that’s what makes us what we are.” Even stating, “we couldn’t do it without the Iowa State kids.”

Ames Haunted Forest is set to open for the 2021 season on Oct. 8, and will operate from 7-11 p.m.every Friday and Saturday night of October. Ballard listed chainsaws, clowns and a disorienting balck hole as some of the most essential and favorite scares he looks forward to. Be sure to keep an eye out for “Mango the Zombie” too, who periodically makes guest appearances.

Wrapping the fall celebrations all into one weekend, Reiman Gardens is preparing for their largest display of jack o’lanterns ever shown at their annual Spirits in the Gardens event. Featuring 1,200 hand-carved pumpkins, specifically grown for Spirits in the Gardens by the Iowa State University Horticulture Farm, guests are invited to walk through illuminated paths and take in the warm flickering lights surrounding them.

“Once those jack o’lanterns are lit, the gardens just look absolutely amazing and it’s an incredible thing to see,” Reiman Gardens Public Events Coordinator, Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, gushed of the beauty displayed. The fresh jack o’lanterns will be lit up for the public to survey from 7-9 p.m. on Oct. 15.

Spirits in the Gardens will continue running throughout the weekend, with events and activities for all ages. Oct. 16 and 17 are headlined by various Iowa State University groups ready to entertain. Iowa State SCUM (Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Majors), Juggling and Unicycling Club and Cosplay Club will perform from 5-7 p.m. In the Events Plaza, there will be a “Candy Factory” with different choices of tasty candy and treats available from 5-9 p.m. Magician Christian Manahl will also be performing magic shows in the Garden Room, with the last show starting at 7:30 p.m.

Spirits in the Gardens is not only enjoyed by the swarms of guests that line the Reiman Gardens pathways, but also by those involved in the planning and coordinating.

“We have a lot of students that work at Reiman Gardens and I will tell you that it is one that they want to come back to and help us out after they’ve left us because they have so much fun putting it on,” said Wessel-Kroeschell.

Whether it be scream-inducing or beautifully serene, Ames has lots of amusing ways to get into the fall spirit. Treat yourself to the fun of it all before winter comes knocking on your door, full of tricks.