Pumpkinferno returns to the Upper Canada Village on Friday, with capacity limits due to COVID-19

BROCKVILLE — An annual Halloween spectacle in the Seaway Valley kicks-off Friday, Sept. 25 with major capacity restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pumpkinferno is a popular attraction that draws thousands of people every fall to Upper Canada Village in Morrisburg.

COVID-19 safety protocols have limited the park to allow only 360 guests per night, with 60 people entering the park every half hour.

“Normally we could see upwards of 5,000 people in a night,” said Carli Smelko, special event officer with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission.

“This year we are going to be significantly reducing the capacity of people that are allowed through the site, just to keep visitors and staff safe, so that we are able to properly social distance.”

Those safety protocols will start as soon as visitors enter the parking area

“Upon arrival, guests will enter into a staging area where they will be sectioned off into Zone A, B and C,  corresponding to the time slot indicated on their ticket,” said Smelko

“Then they will be let in by a staff member into the village to see Pumpkinferno.”

Once in the park, visitors are encouraged to keep physically distanced.

“The site is outdoors and there is a lot of space, so we’re able to properly do this with a capacity of 60 people every half hour,” said Smelko.

“Visitors will need to bring their masks just because if they are going inside to use the washroom or if they are eating at the Harvest Barn Restaurant, they’ll need their masks to go in.”

On average, it takes about 40 minutes to walk through the village, but the time depends on how long it takes people to tour Pumpkinferno and take photos.

“We ask that once you’re on site and everywhere here please respect the two metres apart on site,” said Smelko

“We do encourage you to continuously flow through the event on this one way route. Don’t go backwards, just follow the flow so we’re not overlapping visitors paths.”

The set-up crew has also been given an extra week to make sure the park is safe.

“Usually we get two weeks to do it and usually we can get it done in that time, provided on things like weather, which is always a factor,” said Dylan Roberts as he put the finishing touches on a display.

“This year we’ve had three weeks because of all the extra COVID safety measures we are putting in place.”

Staff are looking forward to kicking the event off, with some different scenes added this year.

“I think it’s great to see all of the displays come together,” said Karen Atcheson, also working with the set-up crew.

“At the beginning of the week you’re starting, you’re putting things different places but not until the end of the week do you actually see the structures take shape,” Atcheson said.

“Then of course walking through following people is nice to see all of there ohhs and their awwws and how they stay at one display really long because they really enjoy the particular one.”

Planning for the event starts every November, and over 2,000 pumpkins are carved every summer.

“We’re bringing back old favourites. So if you went last year, it’s not going to be the same. It’s going to be different and you’re going to see favourites from previous years,” said Smelko

“I like to compare it to kind of like an art gallery, where the pumpkin is our canvas. These artists who work during the summer to carve these pumpkins are very talented and it’s a spectacular event to come see,” Smelko added.

“With all the COVID restrictions and the uncertainty, I want you be at ease to know that we are being very safe and the customers and staff health and safety is our top priority. We’re making sure this site is super safe.”

This year’s event will be held seven days a week instead of the usual four. Pumpkinferno is open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 25 to Oct. 18, and from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. October. 19 to 31.

Tickets are only available online at pumpkinferno.com and are going fast, with some dates already sold out.

General admission is $16 per person and children under four are free.

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