Darlington planning a scary good time at Fright Fest event
by Samantha Lyles
The COVID-19 pandemic has rained on a number of parades this year, causing the cancellation of sports, concerts, and festivals around the world. Darlington County has not been immune, as our community missed out on the Sweet Potato Festival (postponed until 2021) and the Freedom Fest Independence Day bash. But hope is not lost, as locals are prepping for a Halloween event designed to revive spirits and bring people together for a safe – if scary – good time in Downtown Darlington. “We were going to do Freedom Fest, but COVID had other ideas,” says Harriet Hobbs, president of the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce. After several failed attempts to reschedule or reconfigure that event to conform with social distancing requirements, Hobbs came up with an alternative: a Halloween festival on the Public Square. She pitched Fright Fest to Darlington’s Mayor Curtis Boyd and city manager Howard Garland and planning soon began. The free admission festival will offer carnival rides (including a giant ferris wheel), midway-style food and drinks, a not-so-spooky haunted house, costume contests, a trick-or-treat alley where kids can safely garner traditional Halloween treats, arts and crafts vendors, a DJ spinning spooky tunes, live entertainment from the Soul Sister Dance Team, the National Guard video game trailer, a cake walk selling freshly made baked goods, a car show, and bingo games where guests can win prizes ranging from seasonal goodies to a flat screen television. Since Fright Fest is a family event, no alcohol will be sold at the festival. “We want kids and families to come out and have fun and feel safe,” says Hobbs, noting that the SC Department of Commerce has issued written permission for Darlington to hold Fright Fest. To increase safety, all hard surfaces, portable bathrooms, and high-contact areas will be regularly sanitized throughout the day. Hand sanitizer will be available at multiple locations around the square. As for face coverings, adult guests are asked to protect others by wearing a mask over their mouth and nose. “We will be wearing our masks, and while I can’t require others to do the same, I strongly request that they do so,” says Hobbs. At 7:30 p.m., a Halloween-themed fireworks show sponsored by the City of Darlington will bring the day to a spectacular close. For the best view, Hobbs advises staking out a spot near Tenampa on the south side of the Public Square. Hobbs says that if Fright Fest goes over well, she would like to keep it going – and growing – in years to come. “I want this to be a huge festival… I think it’s going to be well attended,” says Hobbs. “I just want to hear the square filled up with kids laughing because they’re happy. This way, we know that it’s done safely and under CDC guidelines, and kids are not going to miss out on yet another thing this year.” Fright Fest is scheduled for 2 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 31 in Downtown Darlington. For more information, contact the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce at 843-393-2641.