Jaycees OKd to run haunted house at fairgrounds
Last updated 10/23/2021 at 10:03am
Updated 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23.
Havre Jaycees announced in a Facebook post Friday night that they have been approved to open their haunted house at the Great Northern Fairgrounds.
"We will be opening during our posted hours starting (Saturday)," the post said. "Since we are excited to be open, we will also be opening for our scare free showing at 5 p.m. (Saturday) until 7 p.m.
After a meeting Friday morning between the Hill County Commission, Great Northern Fairgrounds staff, and organizers for various Halloween events at the fairgrounds about the possibility of these events’ cancellation, the Hill County Commission last night approved the Jaycees Haunted House.
Earlier that day, the commission approved the 4-H clubs' events in the 4-H Chuckwagon and the escape room event in the fairgrounds’ search and rescue building, but took more time to examine the haunted house, being held in the fairgrounds' Community Center, as the event was more complicated.
It is still unclear if the fourth event, live music in the Bigger Better Barn, will be allowed to run.
Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson, who has been the primary contact on the issue for the commission with Havre Daily News, had not returned emails or phone calls Friday afternoon or today regarding ongoing deliberations, but Hill County Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Amanda Frickel, who also is one of the fire code inspectors for Rural Fire District 1, said in an email Friday night that operating the Haunted House was approved.
The Jaycees' haunted house is a fundraiser for the nonprofit service organization. It costs $6 per person with $1 off with a canned food donation.
The hours are 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 7-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday with special hours of 7 p.m. to midnight Halloween, Sunday, Oct. 31.
The 5-7 p.m. scare free hours tonight are in addition to the normal 7 p.m. to midnight hours.
The Hill County Commission met Friday after a lengthy morning meeting on the issue in the 4-H Chuckwagon and approved letting Hill County 4-H events in the 4-H Chuckwagon and an escape room event in the fairground's Search and Rescue building continue, but did not immediately release a decision on the haunted house or the live music.
The Havre Jaycees previously had posted on their Facebook page that they were in need of a fire truck or water truck, and they were doing everything in their power to make the haunted house happen.
The Jaycees had held the haunted house above the Eagles Club in the former Hotel Oakland for years, but it was moved to the fairgrounds Community Center this year.
Initially, it appeared that all of these events were being canceled, but in Friday morning’s meeting, Peterson said more information has been provided to him regarding these events and modifications that have been made by organizers to try to bring them up to code and the escape room and 4-H events appear now to be in line with the fire codes.
“We feel that both of them have made adjustments to meet the fire code,” he said in an email. “We are trying to be sure we can meet the fire code on the concert. We are also working on language that might help the Jaycees to be able to do their event.”
The potential cancellation of these events was due to allegations that the buildings they were being held in did not meet fire codes for the proposed events, but the circumstances surrounding the potential cancellations remain somewhat unclear as statements from local and state officials regarding what led to this point contradict each other.
Great Northern Fairgrounds Manager Frank English said Thursday that he was approached earlier that day by Rural Fire District 1 Board Chair Steve Jamruszka, who told him that the Jaycees Haunted House and the escape room, a pair of events that are part of a two-week-long Halloween celebration at the fairgrounds, were being shut down on the authority of the state fire marshal’s office.
The fairgrounds are part of Rural Fire District 1, an area not part of the city of Havre but with which the Havre Fire Department contracts to provide fire suppression services.
English says he was provided no documents to support this shutdown order, but Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson contradicted this by saying Jamruszka showed English supporting documents on the former’s phone.
Peterson said he was sent an email from Acting State Fire Marshall Dirk Johnson saying the events had to shut down.
“According to an email I have seen, Mr. Johnson said the spook house and the escape room were a no-go, because the buildings they were in were not up to fire code,” he said at that time.
However, a statement from Johnson contradicts this as well.
“The State Fire Marshall’s Office would not issue a shutdown order without first doing an inspection – neither of which has occurred in this instance,” Johnson said in a statement to the Havre Daily News Thursday afternoon. “At the request of fairgrounds personnel, the State Fire Marshall’s Office did a walk through in March and pointed out potential issues should they want to hold large events and an inspection later be requested. To date, no such inspection has been requested.”
Watch for updates here and in Monday’s edition of Havre Daily News.