By Elizabeth Riggs
The Ellicottville Rodeo cowboys have ridden off into the sunset, and with the change of seasons, it’s now time for a new form of entertainment in town: Nightmare Hayrides on Sommerville Street.
Hosted at the same location as the Ellicottville Rodeo, and by the same couple, the Nightmare Hayrides on Sommerville Street will begin on Friday, Sept. 29, at 6319 Sommerville Valley Road in Ellicottville.
“This is our 27th year,” said Karen Kent, who co-owns the business with her husband, John.
Before beginning both the Ellicottville Rodeo and Nightmare Hayride events, Kent said that she and her husband did horseback riding on their farm.
“We used to do horseback riding here for probably 10 years and John wanted something else to do that would bring in families. We started the rodeo, and then he decided to do the haunted hayrides,” said Kent. “Back when we offered horseback riding, the rodeo kind of fit in with that, and we also had the tractors and wagons for making hay to feed the horses. Since we had all the equipment, we decided to start Nightmare Hayrides.”
The hayrides then grew, and have now become a bigger attraction than even the signature rodeo.
“It’s a lot bigger than the rodeo,” said Kent.
It’s easy to see why. The nightmare hayride experience includes a 25-minute tractor-drawn hayride, a haunted wooden maze that twists and turns, a haunted barn, and a vortex tunnel.
“We change it up every year; otherwise everyone can figure out where they are going,” said Kent. “This year, there are several new haunts.”
The hayride haunts include a full cast of clowns, witches, chainsaw men, scarecrows and anything and everything in between. But according to Kent, the wolf man is the signature character that is both especially well-known and frightening.
“We have the wolf man. He likes to scare you while you’re least expecting it out front or after you get off the wagons. Sometimes he’ll even jump out of the toilets. He could be anywhere,” she said.
And because several of the characters are meant to be frightening, Kent emphasized that the experience it best for children 12 and up.
“We’re not bloody and gory like some places are, but it’s geared more toward older people. It’s not geared toward tiny children,” she said. “We’ve had instances where small children came and got scared. We get down on their level and let them touch our faces and talk to them, and help so that they aren’t afraid. But really, the event is best for older children.”
And adults and children alike all over come to Ellicottville to experience the Nightmare Hayrides on Sommerville Street.
“We get Canadians, we get a lot of people from St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. People come from all over the country,” said Kent. “It’s amazing how far they will drive to go on hayrides. They’ll come multiple times in a season and multiple years in a row.”
Kent continued, “We have a lot of families that have come over the years and now they are bringing their kids because they are old enough to go. It’s a lot of fun.”
The hayrides are also something to experience rain or moonshine, as the wagons are loaded and unloaded indoors, and both tickets lines and wagons are covered.
“A lot of people like to go on the days that it’s raining, they think it’s scarier,” said Kent.
And no matter the weather, visitors will enjoy the snack shack on site that serves hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade soups and chilis.
So make room in your October weekends to experience the Ellicottville Nightmare Hayrides – no matter if you’ve already been once before.
“Take a chance on it. If you aren’t screaming, you’re laughing,” said Kent. “Drive out and enjoy the beautiful countryside. Ellicottville has a lot to offer, plus this experience. Watch people and get scared at the same time.”
Admission to the hayrides is $20 per person; 5 and under are free. The hayrides will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 29 through Oct. 29, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. with the last ride running at 9:30. No reservations are needed.
For more information on this event, visit the website at www.nightmarehayride.com.