Halloween is around the corner and Red Ridge Ranch in Mauston is offering opportunities for families to have a ghoulish good time during the spookiest season of the year.
Held every year since 2005, Cindy and Lyle Peterson have once again brought back their haunted activities at the ranch with mazes, a petting zoo, hay rides, and pumpkin decorating. The activities run now through Oct. 31 at Red Ridge Ranch, W4881 Highway 82, Mauston.
“It’s somewhat famous in the area,” Cindy Peterson said. “We have people that come up from Chicago, Minnesota too, but they come up for the weekend and plan around coming here.”
The ranch is open every day for Halloween activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a $15 ticket granting access to a hay maze, petting zoo, pumpkin painting with an included pumpkin of the visitor’s choice, a 20 minute tractor drawn hay ride and inflatable moon walk. On Fridays and Saturdays Red Ridge Ranch offers haunted hay rides for $20 from 7-10 p.m., which also include a camp fire and the hay maze inside the barn.
Other activities available include horseback riding for $35, pony rides for $10, $60 advanced horseback rides, $80 private advanced rides, and starting in December sleigh rides for $30.
“The (daytime) activities are very family friendly, we get a lot of families with kids in the 3-10 year range,” Peterson said. “I’m always surprised how many people take their kids on the haunted hayrides, there’s spooks and scares.”
Peterson begins setting up the display every year in August, and it takes between four and six weeks to get everything prepared. Peterson and her employees create the hay maze, decorate the ranch with paintings and signs made from scratch by her neighbor Bonnie Kissack, harvest between 4-5,000 pumpkins, create the hay ride course and borrow animals from the Amish for the petting zoo.
“It’s a lot of hard work, and every year I say I’m not going to do it again,” Peterson said. “As soon as it’s gone though I miss it… and it’s become a tradition, you listen here (in the courtyard) and hear people talking about how they’ve come back every year.”
After visiting a now-defunct ranch with a similar program along with Kissack in the early 2000s Peterson came up with the idea for the Halloween-themed activities at her ranch.
“I saw theirs and was like, ‘I can do better than that,’” Peterson said. “It was small and there wasn’t much to do, I thought I could improve on it… and there really isn’t much like this in the area.”
Now in its 16th year of operation, the Halloween spectacular can draw up to 350 people on weekends to take part in the variety of activities. New this year are additional inflatables, and Peterson said the scares on the hay ride are “always unique” as the ranch has different scarers every year.