Halloween at Cedar Point is Carolyn Pankow's favorite time of year.
"She gets real giddy at this time," said Barbara Reitz, sales support coordinator for Cedar Point. "She begins planning in July."
Pankow, the park's sales support manager, enjoys the time she gets away from her desk to decorate the amusement park in time for HalloWeekends.
During the summer, Pankow and Reitz are usually stuck behind their desks answering phones for eight hours. For the last two weeks they've been getting their hands dirty, dressing up skeletons and hanging up decorations for this year's 11th annual HalloWeekends event.
Both women were part of a 10-person team that helped decorate the park's gazebo, which now features dead country stars.
The lead singer of the country band?
For the past decade, full-time staffers at Cedar Point have lent their manpower and creativity to change the park from bright, summertime fun to dark, gloomy and scary.
On Thursday, Kelly Salyer, secretary of human resources, spent most of the morning putting the final touches to her section of the park -- the gypsy area.
Hand-tying scarves onto lengths of rope was one of Salyer's last tasks before the park's debut Friday. The small, easily-overlooked effort was just one of many that staffers do to make HalloWeekends a special event for guests.
"It's nice to get out of the office and be hands-on," said Cedar Point public relations manager Bryan Edwards. "It's nice to come out to the park and say, 'We did that.'"
Every year staffers are separated into groups to decorate certain sections of the park. Edwards, Salyer and three other staffers were in charge of decorating the gypsy area. "There are no rules to decorating," Edwards said. "Each year we try to freshen it up."
This year staffers were only given two weeks to prepare the park for HalloWeekends. The event was pushed forward one week, giving staffers less time to decorate.
New this year is the addition of a parade with six floats and 11 vehicles, including miniature pumpkin cars and a Roadster shaped like a coffin.
"We're going for the full, family effect," said John Taylor, Cedar Point's manager of graphic services. Taylor is in charge of designing, purchasing and implementing "as much as we can" in preparation of the event.
Taylor said the first year the park hosted HalloWeekends was "pretty bad." Whatever materials the park had lying around were used to decorate.
"We wrote on Styrofoam tombstones with Magic Markers," he said. "It's evolved."
Now fog machines, special lighting and other effects are used to create the scary, yet fun, atmosphere that HalloWeekends is now known for. More than 100 fog machines and 2,000 gallons of fog fluid are used for the seven-weekend-long event.
Although many new decorations have been purchased for the annual event, many old parts and pieces from rides and restaurants have been recycled or reused for use. Several old arcade games, including arcade prizes, are used as decorative touches in the "CarnEvil" portion of the park.
Dan Ruff, the arcade maintenance supervisor, has participated in decorating the park since the event began 11 years ago.s
"In the summertime, we're pushed to keep things running," Ruff said as he set up tents in the "CarnEvil" section of the park Thursday.
"This is definitely a fun time. You can tell everyone is in the spirit of Halloween."