Merry Lea’s Enchanted Forest, a Halloween activity that’s more charming than scary and that targets families with children from kindergarten to third grade, gives children the opportunity to talk to woodland animals.

This event is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The Merry Lea staff, particularly Maria Tice, who serves as the administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator at Merry Lea, is in charge. The students in the master’s program in environmental science and in the Sustainability Leadership Semester also volunteer at this event, as it occurs just feet from their homes in Reith Village and by the Kesling Barn.

The event first occurs for Spanish-speaking families two weeks before Halloween, and then for English speakers the following weekend, Oct. 24th and 25th.

Families from near and far come to the Enchanted Forest for a night of fun and nature. Upon arrival there is live music in Kesling Barn, along with warm drinks and arts and crafts for children. After this, families are placed with a tour guide who takes them through the forest with only an oil lantern. Along the way, families will encounter people dressed as lightning bugs, beavers, turtles, bears, bats, toads and many more creatures.

Lisa Myers, another coordinator of the event, said, “The costumes look very real in the dark. The toad has a paper mache mask that is painted to look like the colors of a turtle and contains warts. The owl is a big wool blanket and also has a painted mask with pointy ears. The bear is basically a giant fuzzy jump suit.”

The “animals” put on a small skit, and then explain a little about what they are and what they do. Next, the families are allowed to ask questions about anything they would like to know. There will be two different routes with different animals along the way. Most families choose to do both because they have so much fun on the first one.

Lisa’s favorite part of this event is that “it isn’t frightening for the kids, which is what they are used to on Halloween. Also, it’s fun to be at Merry Lea at night because normally, the trails aren’t open at night.”

College students are encouraged to volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering, you can e-mail Lisa Myers ( or Maria Tice ( Volunteers are given a meal at 4:30 p.m. both days. Following this, there will be a brief orientation to the routes for guides and animal facts for those who choose to be an animal. The night will conclude around 9:30 p.m.