A haunting good time for charity

By Rob Glidden

Staff Writer

The Burke family is bringing back its “Spooky Kingdom” Halloween attraction and hoping that Mother Nature will not be as brutal this year.

For eight years, the family has invited the public to their home at Lovley Drive in Plantsville to enjoy a home-made Halloween adventure. They have also encouraged their guests to make a donation to a cause dear to their hearts – the Connecticut Alzheimer’s Association.

The Spooky Kingdom has enjoyed a growing following over the years. In 2010, over 1,400 people attended and the family raised over $2,100 for their cause. In 2011, they thought they were on track to have their best year ever, especially after the first night of the event alone brought in 631 people and raised $1,376. However, the sudden and devastating arrival of Winter Storm Alfred in late October shut down the Kingdom.

“We were really crushed,” said Bonnie Burke. “We had done so well that first weekend and gotten some great [media] coverage. We thought were in for some huge traffic and then that storm hit.”

She said a few guests had even shown up after the storm, but without electricity the family couldn’t put on the show.

This year, they are hoping to rebound and have a set a fundraising goal of $2,500. Each year’s event is preceded by several weeks of work on the animatronic ghouls and the spooky decorations that surround them. “Spookmaster” Howard Burke has a passion for designing these machines and the event has a following online among fans of haunted house attractions.

“I went last year and it was awesome,” wrote Sara Putala Marzi on the event’s Facebook page. “[It] definitely should be checked out and it’s for a good cause.”

Spooky Kingdom competes against some larger attractions in the area, such as Lake Compounce’s Halloween event and the huge Trail of Terror in Wallingford. However, the Burke family has found a niche thanks to the kid-friendly nature of their attraction. Some families bring kids as young as 3 years old.

“We let people know right away that it’s all animatronics,” Burke said. “There’s nobody jumping out to scare the kids. Parents appreciate that because they are looking for something they do with their younger kids that won’t be too frightening for them.”

This year, Spooky Kingdom on 14 Lovley Drive will be open on the evenings of October 20, 21, 27, 28 and 31 from 7 pm to 9 pm. Admission is free but donations to the Connecticut Alzheimer’s Association are encouraged. More information can be found on the event’s website, www.spookykingdom.org.

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