Forest of Fear celebrating 12 years of supporting the community
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Volunteers for the Forest of Fear, a haunted trail walk located just east of Grayling, are primed and ready to spook visitors and scare up some money for local community organizations.
Celebrating its 12th year, the Forest of Fear will kick off on Friday, Oct. 6.
“We’re bigger and better than last year,” said Forest of Fear founder Tom Cojocar. “The place looks absolutely fabulous. I’m very happy with it and I’m very proud of it.”
Located on 10 acres of land at 1316 Stephan Bridge Road, Cojocar said volunteers have been clearing the trail and creating new scenes over the last two months for the season.
“It’s never the same,” Cojocar said. “We changed everything up and all of the scenes are different.”
A new entrance was also added to the trail walk, which will be unveiled during the opening weekend.
A total of 43 volunteers, who Cojocar calls his “Bloodline,” help stage the trail walk and spook Forest of Fear visitors on weekend nights.
All volunteers are from Grayling, Roscommon, and Mio. Cojocar said a 14-year-old Grayling girl was a last minute volunteer, who asked to help with the trail walk because she enjoyed walking through it last year.
“By the time she and I were done with the conversation, it was so heartwarming to me, I had tears rolling down my eyes,” Cojocar said. “That simple phone call made all the humps, bumps, and hurdles I’ve gone through over the last 12 years all worth it. There was no way I was going to break this little girl’s heart.”
Cojocar said he has fielded calls from dozens of people, offering to donate items as such gurneys.
“The feedback that I get from the community is just overwhelming,” he said.
A $5 donation is charged per person to go through the Forest of Fear. All proceeds raised go to community organizations such as the River House Shelter, Inc., Crawford County Community Christian Help Center, the Frederic Food Bank, and the AuSable Valley Animal Shelter.
About $50,000 has been donated to the organizations gathered from Forest of Fear proceeds from the last 11 years.
“That’s a lot of money for being such a small organization,” Cojocar said.
One woman suggested doubling the donation to walk the haunted trail. Cojocar said he is not willing to consider that at this point.
“People up here can’t afford it,” he said.
Instead, donation cans will be placed for respective community organizations at the end of the trail walk, allowing visitors to select their favorite scenes. Visitors can also make personal donations.
“I thought that with this way, it’s where you want it to go,” Cojocar said.
The Forest of Fear runs from dusk to 11 p.m. every weekend in October.
“We’ve got to have the dark because it covers things up,” Cojocar said.
But Forest of Fear volunteers will come out during the daytime on Saturday, Oct. 7, to spook participants for the River House Shelter’s 5K Zombie Walk and Run.
The race will begin at 9 a.m. at the Mt. Hope Lutheran Church and will end at the Crawford County Courthouse after winding through downtown and the Grayling Harvest Fest.
“Whether you’re an avid runner or would rather walk the route, this promises to be the event to get your heart pounding,” said Carla Ott, the development director for the domestic violence shelter which provides help to women and children. “Awards will be given for fastest runners and for best costumes, so come dressed as your favorite zombie.”
Cojocar came up with the idea to start the trail walk after volunteering for a similar trail walk in Mio, which raises funds for the Red Cross.
The Forest of Fear will remain open through Tuesday, Oct. 31, to help Halloween revelers celebrate the holiday. Grayling Elementary School students and Roscommon kindergarten through first grade students are scheduled to visit the trail walk on Halloween during the daytime.
“I’m very proud to show it off to the kids,” Cojocar said.