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Creative decorations, including this large flamingo, were on display in 2017 during Boo at the Zoo at the Scovill Zoo in Decatur. 

DECATUR — Glowing pumpkins light your path as you stroll over crunchy leaves on a chilly October evening.

Your kids are dressed to scare and delight as they gather treats from the various goody stations. For many, Boo at the Zoo is a favorite family tradition. For Scovill Zoo, Boo wraps up another successful season.

This marks the event’s 35th anniversary. Over the years, Boo at the Zoo has evolved from just five nights in 1984 to our current schedule of 10 nights over the last three weekends of October. The talking pumpkin has been a long-standing favorite.

As a person who knows the talking pumpkin quite well, I have been amazed at the innocence and wonder of the kids who carry on lengthy conversations with this big talking squash, including those with no fear who actually say – if you can believe it – that the talking pumpkin isn’t real. GASP … move along kid!


Scovill Zoo Director Ken Frye fed pumpkins to goats in the petting zoo in October 2017.

Dozens of people assist with set-up. Groups of school children help put up decorations. Zoo volunteers gather to carve pumpkins. Zoo staff put in hundreds of hours setting out decorations and purchasing the treats for the stations, hosted by community volunteers. Some groups like to have their own night at the zoo and bring along additional treats to distribute. Thirty volunteers are needed on Boo weeknights, while 60 are needed on weekends. Many families return each year to hand out treats, making their own Halloween traditions.

Speaking of the pumpkins, it is tricky trying to preserve carved pumpkins over three weekends. Some pumpkins do well, while others turn into a mushy mass in the sun. Some are attacked by squirrels, who enjoy fattening up during the last few weeks of October. Several master pumpkin carvers have shared their talents with the zoo over the years. Others, like me, are experts at triangle eyes and curvy tooth mouths. The range of expertise adds to the fun. If you are a master carver and want to show off your skills, call the zoo and we can supply your pumpkin canvas.

Come to Scovill Zoo to start, or continue, your Boo at the Zoo tradition! The 2018 dates are Oct. 12-14, 19-21, and 25-28. Weekday hours are 5:30-8 p.m., with Saturdays and Sundays 3-8 p.m. Non-spooky train rides are offered until 6:30, and spookiness takes place from 6:30 to close. Please call (217) 421-7435 if you would like to volunteer to pass out candy or help scare train riders.

Vampires, witches, tortoises ... oh my? Boo at the Zoo draws a crowd 👻

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