All posts by Ben Tiscareno

The night Scarecrows came to McCormick Park

It was late October of 2016. The month long celebration honoring the filming of “Halloweentown” in St. Helens had been growing in excitement every weekend. With Halloween itself around the corner, the energetic pulse of the city was escalating to fever pitch – combining local enthusiasm, waves of tourist attention, family friendly events, and creepy shapes moving in the night. If you recall 2016 was the year that hundreds of eerie clown sightings were happening across the nation, with a number spotted here in town. The Autumn chill carried hints of other dark things being shaken loose beneath the surface.

With this atmosphere around town, people were paying more attention to their surroundings than ever. Reports began of strange shapes moving among the trees in McCormick Park; of creatures watching cars and pedestrians along Old Portland Rd.

 

More than just movement in the dark was being reported. Ghostly lights and inhuman calls were coming from deep in the undergrowth. A mysterious fog oozed out once the sun was down, and covered the nearby bridge.

Nights in the park had been quiet for months, after the city began closing McCormick Park’s campgrounds at sunset earlier that summer. But as late October approached this nighttime quiet began to change.

It was eventually discovered that ShoeString Community Players was hosting an extremely unique tour of the park after hours, introducing guests to “Scarecrows! Tales in the Dark”. This adventure into the darkest trails of St. Helens took courageous souls among the spindly trees and swampy ground. On this tour travelers  were able to uncover the twisted history behind the town’s scarecrow decorations. Along the darkened trails, the bravest among us could learn the true & forgotten purpose of why the scarecrows are put up every October. Those bold enough to take this tour last year came face-to-face with the hungry forces that the scarecrows protect us from…  and hear from previous residents of St. Helens who were not lucky enough to make it out alive.

We find ourselves here again. Once more it grows late in the month of October. The scarecrow decorations are in place all around town, as is tradition. The excitement and haunting atmosphere has returned to St. Helens, and Halloween is right around the corner.  Shapes are moving in McCormick Park after dark again. Haunted spirits and a more malevolent presence.

Gather your courage, gather your friends & your loved ones, and check out ShoeString Community Players’ presentation of the Haunted Tours in McCormick Park – “Scarecrows! Tales in the Dark”. An outdoor scare experience, unique to one of our city’s creepiest parks, with tales to be told on October 27 & 28. First tour at 7pm, and last tour at 10pm. Tours take place every 30 minutes – please arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time.

Will you brave the damp & cold of McCormick Park’s trails this year?
Are you willing to learn what hides behind the festive and sometimes silly decorations put up all across the city?
Will the scarecrows protect you, or take you to join them in the dark?

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A Haunted Tour Through Downtown St. Helens

“This is so cool! If I lived in this town, I would come down here and scare people all month long during this festival!”
– Pedestrian unknowingly walking by a performer, who is acting like a decorative scarecrow

“I do live here. We are doing exactly that! And we will keep having fun doing it as long as you folks keep on coming to enjoy our town!”
– Performer, quickly breaking scarecrow pose to share their joy with the startled pedestrian

Last October 2016, during the Spirit of Halloweentown celebration, some town residents found themselves living in a dream come true nearly every weekend. Putting on terrifying makeup, dressing in haunting costumes, and sneaking around downtown St. Helens in coordinated fright after fright. The targets of these haunts were groups of folks walking through our city’s streets and parks. No – this was not part of some rude, unsolicited pranks against innocent victims & unwary visitors to our beautiful home. Well perhaps there were a FEW innocent victims… and no matter how wary the visitors were, the highly coordinated spooks still inspired more fearful fun and screams than can be found during a typical weekend downtown.


Quiet main street in downtown St. Helens – deserted and lonely? Or waiting with hushed breath for the ghoulish hauntings to begin?

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteering for ShoeString Community Players last October was a significant highlight of 2016 for many of the participants, and easily qualifies as one of my personal Top Ten most fun experiences! Tremendous credit goes to the diverse group of volunteers who showed up for weeks, with minds & hearts full of the passion to perform in the various acting and support roles. An extra helping of credit goes to the directors, writers, and organizers for each production – sometimes they were the same person! It can often be a challenge to create these shows, and then to channel our different talents so they can come to life.

The creative and dedicated volunteers who made up the cast & crew of each production all shared in the same playful spirit, and connecting with them was a delight for any volunteer or show attendee. With the variety of talents brought to the table, and a solid team of directors to organize them, SSCP was able to deliver weekend after weekend of solid performances during 2016’s Spirit of Halloweentown celebration.

Preacher who presided over the Damned, 
and a Soul who lost to his way to liquor and is lost in time.

After contributing to numerous projects throughout the years, it becomes apparent that the satisfaction and joy from each show is largely determined by the players and personalities involved; more so than by the logistic details alone. SSCP nailed every aspect of their Spirit of Halloweentown productions last year, including being adaptable when unexpected plot twists arose on performance night! This focus on a culture of success is cultivated from the 30+ years of history behind the organization. St. Helens is very fortunate to have ShoeString Community Players based in their city.  To anyone with a curiosity for theatrics, or even a lifetime of experience in the performing arts, please take this contributor’s energetic encouragement to reach out and volunteer with this group. You won’t regret the choice! As highlighted by the overheard exchanged above, there are people who dream about having opportunities like these. They are here in St. Helens, on you doorstep. Opportunity is knocking. Will you step forward boldly, and be part of making another dream come true?

St. Helens Haunted Tours
Cast and Crew 2016


Voodoo Doughnuts for the guests who were celebrating downtown, whether they attended a show or not!

 

Children being bold and playing with the scary performers downtown. There is nothing to fear here. But watch out around the next corner…

 

In Search Of

Do you have a passion for musicals?
Is the Director inside of you craving to step out and take charge of a production?
Are you itching to take a musical chorus and give them direction, or to conduct an orchestra?

ShoeString Community Players is coordinating a summer musical, and is pooling talent from across the region. This is the chance you’ve been waiting for!

Individuals with a passion for performance, talent for stage craft, and who enjoy creating memorable experiences are invited to be a part of this summer production. Specific opportunities for Directors are available. If you have a talent and interest in directing a musical, a chorus, or an orchestra, and you are reading this right now, then you’ve come to the right place! ShoeString Community Players is seeking passionate members from the community who wish to invest their talent in this creative process. Could you be the next Director or contributor to this musical? Reach out and discover what waits for you behind this door!

With a history of success and a flow of enthusiasm from past participants, SSCP will continue to bring entertainment and community engagement through this summer musical.

“The Wizard of Oz” 2016
Mystery Hour Radio Theater: “The Shadow” 2016

If these opportunities are calling to you, or if your curiosity is leading you towards being a part of this production, then please be invited to submit your interest for consideration!

ShoeString Community Players