Monsters, Clowns and Scares: Behind the Scenes at the Canfield Scaregrounds

By Stephanie Stanavich 

Dominic Baragona is the mastermind behind goblins, clowns, vampires and monsters lurking around during the Halloween season. He is the creator of the Canfield Scaregrounds, which was established in 1992. Baragona and his company Mid America Events are in charge of the entire production.

The Scaregrounds features 10 themed buildings and a Haunted Hayride.

“Our hayride is very elaborate and traverses through barns and stalls that dot the fairgrounds,” Baragona said. “It is a very natural setting for a haunted hayride as you truly get the farm feel.”

The sets, walls and effects for the Scaregrounds are built on an off-site facility while the actors are preparing for their roles.

“There are nearly 200 actors needed to scare all the attractions, and we recruit online for specific people, while also using drama departments’ actors from local schools,” Baragona said.

The clown sightings taking place all over the world have increased the intensity of the Blood Moon Farm, Baragona said.

“[They] have only intensified the clown scares, and patrons love them,” Baragona said. “The hayride still features clowns, but not inside the barn as in past years.”

Aaron Davis worked at the Canfield Scaregrounds for two years and was assigned the part of a lurking monster this year. He said being an actor at the Canfield Scaregrounds takes talent, persistence and commitment to do the role correctly.

“When it is your turn to scare people, you try and hide where they will look and you blend in or hide in corners and on top of walls to jump out for a better scare,” Davis said.

The workers behind the masks and face paint know that their job is to scare.

“I only feel bad when they are under the age of 8 but anyone that is above 9 is free game and should know what they are getting into,” Davis said.

Tara Stitle, the manager of Blood Moon Farm, has been there since 2001 and has been scaring since she was 9 years old. The actors who are participating in the Scaregrounds have to arrive early for makeup and costumes.

“Due to the amount of actors who get makeup, we usually do makeup right up to the time we open at 7:00 and even later for the dimensions that are visited last by the customers,” Stitle said. “Makeup starts at 3:30p.m.”

Stitle has other coworkers that help her with makeup and preparing the actors for their roles. One of the artists is a YSU student, Nick Chicone. This is his second year.

“It has been one of the best experiences in my life so far,” he said.

Stitle explains that the Scaregrounds take months to plan and setup.

“We work year round and only have 19 days to build the entire haunt and hayride, and only four days to take it all down!” Stitle said.

Stitle has had many jobs, but she said she would never give up working at the Canfield Scaregrounds.

“Scaring people for a living and making them look terrified, it’s a dream job of a lifetime,” Stitle said. “Once you get the art of scaring in your blood, it’s addictive.”