Sunday, October 21, 2012


As I stepped out of my car, I heard the crunch of the leaves on the ground.  I felt the cool, crisp evening air gently envelop me.  I smelled the aroma of campfires.  All of these things made me jump back in time to my own childhood, growing up in Western New York, and window painting the town for Halloween; sitting around bonfires for homecoming; and trick-or-treating.  This was all part of my childhood and the kids around the Bourbonnais area will be lucky enough to recall their own childhood in years to come with fond memories of "A Night in Sleepy Hollow."

"Sleepy Hollow" was started 17 years ago by Marilyn O'Flaherty as a part of the Exploration Station, A Children's Museum here in Bourbonnais, IL.  As the years progressed, so did the production of "Sleepy Hollow."  This year Acting Out Theater Company and its cast of 28 were responsible for the even more grand and elaborate production.  The entire production took place on the grounds of the Perry Farm.  You were guided from campfire to campfire, walking through orchards and canopies of trees, where actors in period costumes retold the original tale of Washington Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.'  While I waited to enter the Three Bay English 1840 barn for the party scene, hot apple cider was served to warm you up on this perfectly chilly fall night.  Two characters took the opportunity to warn you of the horrors to come and give you tricks and tips if you should encounter The Headless Horseman.  I then followed the guide and my group into this perfectly preserved 1840 barn.  As I entered the barn, I couldn't believe how beautiful the woodwork and beams were!  Acting Out Theater had transformed this barn into an ideal venue for a play.  Here, the characters from the story came to life.  We met Ichabod Crane and the true personality of the man was divulged.  In addition to the many party goers, none other than Brom Bones and his cohorts were in attendance.  The beautiful Katrina Van Tassel and her parents who sponsored this extravagant get-together enlightened the audience about all to come.  The party began, complete with dancing from that time period.  An elegant feast was displayed which the the lucky actors were able to partake.  Ghost stories were told at this party and we, the audience, sat enraptured by the tales of the 'Lady in White' and 'The Hanging Tree.'  But most impressive was the tale of the Headless Horseman.  I looked around at my group of 40 people of all ages, ranging from 4 to 64.  They were all mesmerized.  Not an eye looked away from these actors on stage.  Children sat with their mouths agape.  Some children snuggled in closely to their mothers as images of the stories were vividly portrayed in their minds.

Exiting this beautiful barn, we went aboard a hay wagon pulled by a tractor.  Going deeper and deeper into the fields and forest, we encountered each of the haunted stories.  As children screamed that they saw the Headless Horseman, the tractor hit high speed to escape our possible gruesome demise.  I must admit that I never expected that there would be a high speed chase scene!  Luckily, our driver, Anthony Settle, was more than a competent driver and we escaped...or so we thought!  The bridge was now on fire!  How were we going to escape?  The special effects of
the fire and the perfectly timed headless horseman galloping by, raising his sword and swooping into the hay wagon was flawless.  Even the adults jumped at that one!  At last we finally made it to safety and jumped off the wagon unscathed.  What fun!

 That wasn't all!  Afterward, there were games such as Find the Red Needle in the Haystack, and Gory Boxes with Body Parts, a tent to watch the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow, and so much more.  What a perfect evening, with an exemplary cast to recount Washington Irving's classic tale.  The effects, the acting, the overall setting couldn't have been any better.  As I left Sleepy Hollow, I was proud to live in an area that gave to its community such a quality event.  If you missed it this year, be sure to put it on your calendar for next year.  It's truly an occasion you don't want to miss.

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