We love fall and our favorite fall activity is Halloween. I do find it a bit bittersweet, the fact that the end of camping season is near but Halloween is so much fun that you kinda put the doom of what is coming out of your mind for a while.
A few of our local state parks have started hosting Halloween Campouts (Watkins Mill State Park and Wallace State Park). We sorta stumbled onto the first one and had such a great time that we keep going back. Last year we even won the Scariest Campsite Contest and earned ourselves three free nights of camping. We used that reward and booked sites at Watkins Mill State Park for the 3rd Annual Halloween Campout this past weekend.
When the judges brought us our first place prize last year they said, “You really blew us away and we can’t wait to see what you come up with for next year!” I am sure that was some kind of standard reply they give to everyone but we took it to heart and looked at it as a challenge. Could we top the Mad Science Lab we did last year?
Maybe I should pause here and explain who all is involved in this haunted camping trip. The Taylor’s and The Todd’s have been at every single Halloween Camp-Out at Watkins Mill. Last year we extended an invitation to The Merriman’s because they are fun and love Halloween as much as we do. This year, the Todd’s had to cancel due to a conflict with Z’s sports schedule. So, I invited my friend Meg and her family. (Do you remember Meg? She wrote a blog post for us called Growing Up Camping.) Then we have my dear Mother who comes to help and participate the day of the Halloween party. We also have other friends who attend the same camp-out so it is nice to spend time with so many great camping friends!
We settled on our theme for the year: Zombie Prom. We decided a prom had three main elements we needed to create in our campsite. First we needed a DJ. You can’t have a school dance without someone playing music. Second we needed a photo attraction. I am sure all of you out there have a “memorable prom photo” from back in the day. And finally, we needed a refreshment table with cake and punch.
I would say we it took us about 2 months to pull together all of our decorations. Finding formal attire we could muck up at a price point reasonable to us took a little while. In the end we told our family members that as long as they had something to do with high school we would be happy. So, we ended up with a Zombie Prom Queen and her date, a Zombie baseball player, football player, a few cheerleaders, and even a Grimm reaper responsible for collecting the departed souls.
We used two easy up tents as our frame. We covered the tents with inexpensive black dollar store plastic table cloths to create walls. Not only did the walls give us an area to transform, it also kept us hidden from the watchful eye sight of other campers. I think this helped create an excitement around our campsite as everyone’s anticipation kept building about what was inside that tent. On top of the black walls, we hung up some red plastic table cloths that we unevenly cut into strips. I remember back to my high school days and we used rolls of crepe paper to create the walls of our dances. Hours were spent hanging the crepe paper and twisting it in the same direction and taping it to the floor. We wanted our Zombie Prom to look like it had been pretty at one point but had been discarded and forgotten until this one night.
Our original plan was to have red and white plastic tablecloths cut to look like crepe paper streamers but when we got to the campground I realized I had picked up round tablecloths and not rectangle ones. Meg was quick on her feet and suggested using the rounds as valances on top of the red and it worked out well!
For our photo attraction, The Merriman’s and I made a giant 6 foot 3 inch coffin out of cardboard. We were gifted the shipping box of a whiteboard and set about measuring and cutting. Once cut, we painted it black and duck taped it all together. Our original thought was to have someone “pop” out of the coffin and provide a timely and funny photobomb but in the end, we left the coffin closed because it felt stronger. We added chains and a “beware of zombie’s” styrofoam sign to the coffin. Around the coffin we had a candelabra with zombie candle’s, skulls, and a flower arrangement of dead flowers. The Merriman’s and I also made a sign to sit in front of the photo attraction that said “Zombie Prom “#3rdAnnualHalloweenCampout #WatkinsMillStatePark.
The DJ was the easiest and maybe the funniest part to set up. We have access to a life-size medical skeleton that we like to call Bob. Bob was always going to be the DJ for the prom. We were going to call him “Bob Bones” and use bone lettering to make him a DJ sign for his booth. However, the presidential debates happened and Ken Bone made himself an internet sensation. So, we changed Bob’s name to Ken, gave him a mustache, put a red sweater on him, and called him Ken Bone, DJ 4 Hire. We put Beat headphones on him, rested his hands on a turntable and a laptop. I even found a brand new mirrored disco ball on Craigslist and hung it from the roof of the tent. We used our red/green garden lasers to caste light onto the disco ball so the entire prom spun with light.
We always knew we wanted cake and punch at the refreshment table but really debated over fake cake vs real cake. A month or so ago, I stumbled onto a tutorial from another RV blogger, Gretchen about a fake cake she had made in the past. (Gretchen has two blogs one for home, Boxy Colonial, and one for the RV, Boxy Colonial On The Road.) I knew immediately that this was the type of cake we were going to have. So I set about buying cake forms with my 40-50% off coupons and used some Plaster of Paris I had at home to frost the cakes. I used old Mardi Gras beads painted black for decoration and made clay roses uses Sculpey clay I had on hand. Ironically, I never figured out how to make roses with frosting but my clay roses turned out amazing! We added some old flower arrangements painted black to the table along with some blood red punch with eyeballs and had a spooky looking refreshment table.
Outside the tent we created a grave yard with styrofoam headstones and compost dirt. We put strobe lights and warning tape up. We also lit the pathway from the road to the tent with solar lights and we ran floral wire between three trees and taped red glow sticks to the wire to give the effect of floating red candles.
Reflections from the night:
This was the most forgiving theme we could have picked. It did not matter how inexperienced we were at mucking clothing up, it looked great. Not a single one of us felt confident with our make-up skills going into this but we nailed it! The Plaster of Paris got bumped around a bit as it cured, it didn’t matter it looked like it was a decade old.
I am not sure how many parents at the Halloween campout knew who Ken Bone was. He was funnier to us than any visitor!
We had a line to visit our Zombie Prom all night long. In hindsight, we should have created a front entrance and a back exit. Our photo attraction got a lot of attention and it slowed down the traffic flow.
We ended up taking first place again! It was a shared victory with all the kids and all the adults who helped plan. We all went to bed with big smiles and maybe some sore muscles from all the dancing we did. People greeted us with their hopes of seeing us next year and looking forward to our site. It seems we have a reputation to uphold.
There were other really cute sites in the campground. A short drive around, we snapped some photos of our favorites.
This was our campground host. They used their Class A cab to create a giant monster face and even used the grill for a mouth. I also love the Halloween pail totem pole.
The Short Chic and I saw this large frame made of PVC pipe during our morning walk. We wondered how they would use it. Well, it was nice to find out. I am not sure if they purchased this or made it but they put a giant Frankenstein cover over the PVC frame.
This trio of skeletons sat around a campfire roasting marshmallows all weekend. The fire was very realistic and crackled and popped just like our real fire did!
A trio of witches brewing up some special potion just for Halloween. They had motion sensors and startled me when I got close enough to activate them.
This camper has been pickin his banjo a long ole time.
This group skeletons look like they are enjoying camp life.
If you have the opportunity to go camping for Halloween, we encourage you to give it a try! And if you are interested, we will back at Watkins Mill State Park next year for the 4th Annual Halloween Camp-out. See you then!