Athens’ 10th Annual “Boo at the Zoo” Halloween Scavenger Hunt Scheduled to Continue In-Person After COVID-19 Postponement

Why it’s newsworthy: After a year of virtual and drive-through events, Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services is set to host the 10th Annual “Boo at the Zoo” scavenger hunt with extra COVID-19 precautions set in place. Friends and family are invited to partake in the Halloween fun Oct 15-31 at Memorial Park. 

After a year off due to COVID-19 concerns, the “Boo at the Zoo” Halloween event is scheduled to resume in-person Oct. 15-31 at Bear Hollow Zoo, located within Memorial Park, with additional safety precautions set in place. 

The Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services usually plans this event around one day of fun. In light of the recent pandemic, “Boo at the Zoo” is to look a little different than in years past. Rather than one full day of Halloween festivities, the event will span two weeks to ensure the safety of employees and guests. 

Due to the pandemic precautions, the activity planned for the event is now an outdoor scavenger hunt instead of the usual carnival. This is intended to keep guests safely socially distanced. The event will also feature Halloween themed inflatables and decorations for people of all ages to enjoy.

“With the adjusted event, we’re not doing the carnival games and the hayride and the trick-or-treat stations because that’s just hotspots of people being really close to each other,” program specialist at Bear Hollow Zoo Megan Hong said 

The animal portion of the Bear Hollow Zoo is to remain open during the two-week event, so friends and families can visit the wide variety of wildlife ACC has to offer. This includes otters, alligators, and black bears. 

John McKinney, the facility supervisor at Memorial Park, said the expected turnout of this event is currently unknown due to the changes in event structure.

“In years past we’ve gotten quite a large crowd, so we would get between 2,000-3,000 people just for the three hour event,” McKinney said. 

The department is still expecting a large turnout despite the changes to the annual Halloween event. 

“Boo at the Zoo” is a yearly favorite among the Athens community. So even with the extreme amount of changes compared to previous years, guests will still enjoy getting out of the house to celebrate the fall holiday.

Writer’s Note: I wrote this story for JOUR3190 Reporting and Media Writing. For this assignment, we were assigned beat groups and were instructed to write an event preview story related to our group’s beat. My beat was City and Local Government. We decided to preview an event within the Leisure Services Department of Athens-Clarke County. My group and I scheduled a Zoom interview with the supervisor of the park. I wrote my story around the COVID-19 precautions the department is undertaking at this local event because I felt the quotes regarding that topic were strong and important enough. Overall, writing this story was a great introduction to interviewing and reporting as it was my first time ever attempting something like this.