One could say the annual Halloween extravaganza at the Dashwood firehall is a victim of its own success, but that’s not how Nick Acciavatti sees it.
Rather, the Dashwood fire chief says he sees the need to move the event as the precursor to things getting even bigger, even better and — although safer — even scarier.
The fire crews at Dashwood have been putting on a haunted forest, bonfire and fireworks display at the fire hall at Hobbs Road and Highway 19A for the past 25 years and they’ve put their hearts and souls into it.
Their efforts have paid off in a big way, with attendance growing steadily every season.
“When I started, we would get excited if we got more than 300 people,” he said. “For the last few years though, we’ve had 1,000 plus.”
That’s a problem, he said, because the fire hall lacks adequate parking to deal with that many visitors and people have been parking along the side of the highway, making for a serious safety concern.
“It’s not safe,” he said. “It’s a family event and we want to make sure we aren’t putting people coming here at risk. We are a fire department in charge of people’s safety after all and we want to make sure we are looking after their safety.”
Concerned that this year’s bash would be even bigger than ever, Acciavatti met with Elaine Peligren of the Corcan-Meadowood Residents Association and the Little Qualicum River Village residents group, which have been holding an almost identical event at a much larger venue on a property by the second Dashwood hall at 1800 Galvin Place, behind the Meadowood store.
“We’re combining forces,” he said. “We said, you’re doing it, we’re doing it, so why not do it together?”
Peligren agreed it was a good match.
“I think we are going to get really well known, one of the premier places to check out,” she said. “We had about 200 people to our event last year and the word is really getting out. People are really excited.”
This year’s event, she said, will be held at a much larger property and will be able to feature a larger haunted walk, which they plan to divide into two streams, one for adults and one for the children. The Dashwood hall usually spends about $3,000 for their fireworks display and the Corcan-Meadowood group also puts on a great show, so together they’ll be able to put on a fireworks that’s something to write home about.
In an attempt to make sure as many families as possible are able to attend, Acciavatti said the starting time has been pushed up by half an hour from 6:30 to 6 p.m.