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A Haunting on Hawkeye Downs

Halloween drive-in movie night & more brewing for all ages

The Disney classic, #x201c;Hocus Pocus,#x201d; is the first of a free Halloween movie double-feature with #x201c;Van Hel
The Disney classic, “Hocus Pocus,” is the first of a free Halloween movie double-feature with “Van Helsing,” headlining A Haunting on Hawkeye Downs. The family-friendly event begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday (10/24) at Hawkeye Downs in southwest Cedar Rapids, and includes goody bags, snacks, food truck sales, costume contests, awards for best-decorated vehicles and entertainment. (1993 Walt Disney Pictures)
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The pandemic means no Halloween parade will be slithering through Cedar Rapids’ Czech Village and the NewBo District this year, but organizer Peter Durin hopes cars will parade into Hawkeye Downs on Saturday night. And he hopes they’ll be decorated to look more like alien spacecraft docking in the expo parking lot at 4400 Sixth St. SW.

It’s all part of A Haunting on Hawkeye Downs, a drive-in double feature getting underway at 5:30 p.m. The evening will be full of tricks and treats for all ages, including showings of “Hocus Pocus” at 7 p.m. and “Van Helsing” at 9 p.m.

Guests can watch from their vehicles, accessing the sound from the radio, or bundle up and sit on the lawn in 6-foot-by-8-foot pods, each accommodating up to six viewers. All pod people should bring their own chairs and blankets. Vehicles also will be spaced apart, with room for at least 400.

Costumes are encouraged and masks are mandatory — the kind that help fend off the COVID-19 monster. Social distancing also will be required.

Admission is free, but donations are welcome for the Derecho Relief Fund. Six food trucks also will be selling their treats. And the first 500 children entering the Downs will receive ghouly bags filled with sparkly doodads.

“When kids open the bags, they’re gonna lose their minds,” Durin said with glee.

Other highlights include wandering costumed characters, extraterrestrial activities between shows, a witchy storyteller onstage, costume contests for all ages, free treats and glow-in-the-dark party favors, and prizes for the best vehicle decorations, voted by honks. Portable toilets also will be close by — in case things get too scary, or you simply hear nature calling.

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Halloween has been calling Durin since his childhood trick-or-treating days, but as he got older, the festivities just didn’t feel cohesive.

“Halloween is like a disjointed holiday. All the kids go in one direction, the parents go in other direction, and nobody is together,” he said. “I wanted to come up with an event to be held in one place. It’s an awesome holiday for me.”

So on a Sunday in 2017, sitting in his office at Terry-Durin Company in downtown Cedar Rapids, he mulled over some ideas before conjuring up a Halloween parade.

“The city was very receptive,” said Durin, 57, of Cedar Rapids, the third generation to own the family’s electronics and telecommunications supply company, which organized the previous parades and current haunting. “This would have been the fourth (Halloween) parade in Cedar Rapids, but with the COVID pandemic, it became a logistical problem to try to coordinate.”

So he reached out to Linn County Public Health.

“They couldn’t have been nicer,” he said. “They were up for alternatives, and at that point, I reached out to Hawkeye Downs. They opened their arms, and said I could have the whole facility if I wanted to do a major Halloween event. The drive-in movie became a really great alternative to keep it safe and have a lot of fun at the same time.”

He added that CellSite Solutions, which bought Hawkeye Downs in 2020, waived rental fees when officials heard the event proceeds would go for derecho relief. And many of the previous parade sponsors jumped onboard for the haunting, which helps defray the cost of renting two giant LED screens and projectors, as well as financing the goody bags, entertainment and other expenses for the $8,000 event.

Out of all the Halloween-themed movies from which to choose, selecting “Hocus Pocus” and “Van Helsing” was easy for Durin. Both have a bit of a scare factor, without being gory, he said, noting that “Hocus Pocus” is a Disney classic. The 1993 film, rated PG, stars Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker as three bumbling witches accidentally reawakened by a teenager in Salem, Mass., on Halloween night.

“Van Helsing,” rated PG-13, is one of Durin’s favorite “monster” movies, since it features Dracula and his brides, the Wolfman, Dr. Frankenstein and his creation, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — all hunted by Hugh Jackman in the title role.

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“It’s action-packed and adults will love this movie as much as the kids,” Durin said. “It’s like the ‘Indiana Jones’ of scary movies. It’s action-packed, not bloody and gory, and if you’re a horror movie buff, you’ll walk away going, ‘Awesome movie.’ It’s good for all audiences — scary, but not too scary for the kids.”

However, if guests don’t want to stay for the late show, or have antsy goblins in tow, they’re free to leave at any point through the exit lanes.

Mr. Halloween has more tricks up his sleeves for the evening, which he’s keeping under wraps for now — including his own costume.

“There’s going to be scary eye-candy going on everywhere,” he promised. “It’s more like a production.”

He’s such a big believer in trick-or-treating that he always plans these community events for the weekend before the haunted holiday.

“I do not want to interfere with kids going trick-or-treating on Halloween night,” he said. “It’s October and we’ve got Halloween in the air. It’s a magical holiday. ...

“I want this to be a big, exciting event.”

If You Go

• What: A Haunting on Hawkeye Downs: Halloween drive-in movie night organized by Terry-Durin Co.

• Where: Expo parking lot, Hawkeye Downs, 4400 Sixth St. SW, Cedar Rapids

• When: 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday

• Admission: Free; $10 suggested donation per vehicle for Derecho Relief Fund

• Schedule: 5:30 p.m. doors open; 7 p.m. “Hocus Pocus” movie; 8:30 p.m. paranormal activities and awards; 9 p.m. “Van Helsing” movie

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• Seating: In your vehicle or bring blankets, lawn chairs for lawn seating; movie sound via radio inside vehicles and speakers for lawn seating

• Extras: Costume contests, alien/space ship vehicle decoration contest, entertainment, roaming costumed characters, treats, food truck sales

• Safety: Masks, social distancing mandatory

Details: Hawkeyedowns.org/haunting-hawkeye-downs-oct-2020/

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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