Nightlights Halloween show makes a return this October

By Kaitlyn McCarthy

The Ward Beecher Planetarium at Youngstown State University is starting its annual Nightlights Halloween show during weekends in October. 

“We are doing the shows every Friday [and] Saturday, Friday nights, Saturday afternoons and Saturday nights in October,” Tiffany Wolbrecht, a planetarium lecturer, said. 

The shows have been performed for 47 years and have become a tradition for the planetarium. 

“The Halloween show has been a tradition here at Ward Beecher Hall since 1974,” Curt Spivey, planetarium engineer, said. “Last year was the first year since ’74 we didn’t do it. We are happy to be back this year.”

In order to ensure safety of students and families, masks will be required in order to watch the show to ensure safety and, also, to respect the mask mandate on campus.

For younger audiences, there is a less-scary show in the afternoon. Adults and children who are not afraid of certain parts of the show can attend the regular shows at night.

“We do this every Friday and Saturday evening at 8. That’s the traditional Nightlight, but we also have Night LITE — LITE because we also have younger members of the audience that come to our afternoon shows. Some of the younger members don’t like all the scary pop-up stuff, so we made a more kid-friendly version,” Spivey said. 

Shows include music, special effects, lights and Halloween content. Each show will include different lighting and audio effects.

“We do a live light show in combination with the music and the immersive effects,” Wolbrecht said.

When the shows began in 1974, they were quite different from today’s. As technology advanced, so did the Halloween shows. 

“In the early days, it was slides, it was music, it was practical special effects. These days, we have a 4k video system, we have a fully programmable RGB LED cove lights and we have a 5.1-surround-sound digital sound system,” Spivey said.

As the planetarium engineer, Spivey creates the shows and content.

“When I’m not doing public shows, my job is to make sure everything in [the planetarium] works,” Spivey said. “I take images and we manipulate them and make them fit the song. Everyone has a good time. It’s like a concert.”

Workers at the planetarium encourage people to come out and watch the Halloween shows.

“It’s a lot of fun and gets you ready for the holiday season. We encourage people to come in costume, and we just have a really good time with it,” Spivey said.

Wolbrecht also shared her sentiments about the return of the program after the brief hiatus.

“I’m just excited to be back. It’s been two years since we did this show. In the past, it’s been one of our more popular shows,” she said. “It’s always fun. People come with their families. We have kids, we have adults, and we are all here having fun.” 

Audience members can expect a different experience every show. Admission is free for anyone who wishes to attend.