The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV hosts “hair-raising” Haunted Arboretum for fourth year

GVL | Alena Visnovsky

Grand Valley State University’s Campus Activities Board hosted its annual Haunted Arboretum.

The event, which has been a tradition on campus over the past three years, is popular with many students and event volunteers alike. The Haunted Arboretum was first started as a group effort by Anasie Yazbec, owner of Events with Anasie, who approached the Office of Student Life at GVSU about hosting the event in 2020.

Yazbec, a mom of two Lakers at the time and an alumni, saw a need and wanted to fill it. Yazbec’s children expressed that the isolation of being trapped indoors from the COVID-19 pandemic was negatively affecting their mental health. Additionally, Yazbec knew the GVSU theatre students were lacking opportunities to perform due to the pandemic. Thus, the Haunted Arboretum was born as a way to help students and performers. 

Yazbec has stayed involved with the Haunted Arboretum and comes back each year to help plan and host the event. She relishes every second of it. 

“It makes me happy that the students love it so much, the theater students love it. We have about two dozen actors out there from the theatre department, from STAGE club and from Alpha Psi Omega, and they work really hard to make this event happen,” Yazbec said. “I love to see how long the lines get- it’s also my greatest fear. We usually have about 1,800 students a year come through over two days.”

CAB President Bridie Tolley was also excited about the student turnout. This year CAB opened the Haunted Arboretum a day early, a change they decided the day before the event was set to happen, which affected the turnout of the event. However, the event still brought many people together. 

“I always expect a large turnout to the Haunted Arboretum, because it’s such a large event on campus, but having it be such a last-minute change, I think having over 600 people show up was huge,”  Tolley said. 

Though it’s Tolley’s second year being an officer in CAB, this was her first time really being involved with the Haunted Arboretum through the planning and vendor recruiting process.

This year, other GVSU departments are working with CAB and Housing and Residence Life to be a part of this event. At the event, Recreation and Wellness had the Wellness Information Team (WIT) cart set up and GVSU’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Services offered mocktails. A few food trucks were also present, and free hot chocolate was available to students waiting in line or walking by. 

Tolley said about ten to fifteen CAB volunteers were on-site each night, helping run the event alongside the scare actors. For set up and tear down, CAB enlisted the help of anyone on campus who was willing. She says the entire process of the Haunted Arboretum brings the GVSU community together. 

“It’s slowly becoming a large event,” Tolley said. “Seeing the lines down to Zumberge Hall, I think it’s so cool that all of these groups of people want to come to a CAB event, and I think that the amount of people that are involved with it plays a huge factor in that. Each group has a different dynamic and audience that follows it.”

Beetlejuice, one of the most popular returning characters of the Haunted Arboretum, loves seeing the turnout as well. Though Beetlejuice’s actor doesn’t attend GVSU, Beetlejuice has been a part of the Haunted Arboretum since the very beginning.

“I gotta say (my favorite part) is just seeing the people come out year after year and stand in line, even through pouring rain, just to come through the Arboretum,” Beetlejuice said. 

Erica Shumsky and Asia Williams, two scare actors alongside Beetlejuice in this year’s haunt, said they have greatly enjoyed their experiences with the event.

Williams is a senior who originally started participating in the Haunted Arboretum through STAGE in her sophomore year. Dressed as Pennywise this year, she thoroughly gets a kick out of scare acting.

“My favorite part is scaring people,” Williams said. “I literally laugh every time I scare somebody. It’s just hilarious to me.” 

Shumsky, a freshman and a first-time scare actor for the Haunted Arboretum event, said she got involved with the event because of her roommate, who is the costume manager for the event. In The Haunted Arboretum, Shumsky played a turkey decoy to distract haunt-goers, a role that can be surprising amongst the typical scare costumes like sinister dolls or creepy clowns.

“It’s really fun, a lot of people call me a chicken though,” Shumsky said. “It’s fun just cause people will look at you weird and then they’re like ‘What are you supposed to be?’”

Even though this is her first year, Shumsky said she definitely plans on staying involved with the Haunted Arboretum during her time at GVSU. 

“Everyone has been super nice, it was definitely a fun experience. It pushed me out of my comfort zone but I’m glad I did it,” Shumsky said. 

With this year’s Haunted Arboretum coming to a close, the committees will soon be working on plans to make next year’s event even better. Tolley said she appreciates the work the Haunted Arboretum team has done and will continue to do in the future.  

“The scarers have done so well putting this on,” Tolley said. “They’re so good at what they do, and I could not be more proud of them.”

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