Dementors are invading Lee Richardson Zoo, along with Gumby and Ichabod Crane. The appearance of such characters can only mean that a favorite Halloween tradition is returning. "Boo! At The Zoo" is set for Oct. 19. As a reminder, the zoo will be closed all day on Oct. 19 for spooky preparations.

This year, young witches and wizards may find themselves on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters as the Richardson Railroad will be transformed into the Hogwarts Express from the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Passengers will travel through the "Dark Forest" while using their magic wands to defend the train from the evil dementors that are lurking in the nearby trees. Train tickets are not offered in advance, but guests can purchase them during the event for $5 per person in addition to admission. While "Boo!" is targeted to children and adults of all ages, the train ride may offer too much fun fright for our littlest monsters. The train ride is suggested for those 8 years of age or older. Train passage is limited and may sell out.

Hogwarts Express admission is also an additional bonus with the members-only Skeleton Key pass. Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo members (with a family or grandparent membership level or higher) can reserve their admission to "Boo!" for $10. Key holders meet in our members-only picnic shelter, where we will have various sweets for them to munch on, such as crow bones and pumpkin teeth. From there, they will join Ichabod Crane for a horse-drawn wagon ride through Sleepy Hollow as he re-tells his legendary adventure. After the journey, members are dropped off at a private entrance into "Boo!" where there is no waiting line. Skeleton Keys are sold exclusively through the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo office.

For our non-members, advance passes for "Boo!" are $4 per person and sold at the Finnup Center, Safari Shoppe, El Remedio, Ward's Garden Center and online at Online tickets are sold through Wednesday to ensure delivery. The advance gate opens at 4 p.m. and is limited to 2,500 people. Those who tend to lose track of time while lounging in their coffin may be surprised that advance tickets are likely to sell out by the next full moon (Oct. 18). If that is the case, general admission into "Boo!" starts at 5 p.m. and is $5 per person. This includes Papa Bear, Mama Bear and even Baby Bear. Admission is the same for all ages. "Boo!" is a fundraising event in addition to offering a safe trick-or-treat experience in the community. Funds raised will go toward a new primate exhibit, further improving your zoo.

Guests are encouraged to help make this event a screaming success by entering the pumpkin carving contest. Last year, we had four pumpkins entered into our contest. As numerous as four pumpkins may seem, we would prefer a few more as we would like to create a lighted jack-o-lantern path. We have crossed our skeleton fingers that there will be more participation this year heavy emphasis here toward those who continually say there is nothing to do in Garden City. Those who are interested may come pick a free pumpkin from the Friends office anytime during the upcoming week, or buy their own from their favorite pumpkin patch. Carved pumpkins are then dropped off at the Finnup Center from 10 a.m. until noon on Oct. 19. The contest winner will win four Skeleton Keys for admission into next year's event.

Finally, trick-or-treaters are encouraged to come hungry with an ogre-sized appetite, as the Safari Shoppe is selling Frankenweenies (hot dogs), Monster BBQ beef sandwiches and various beverages. The food, along with picnic tables, will be located near the Fifth Street exit gate so that attendees may purchase dinner while waiting in line, or grab food to go on the way out. Bring an old cell phone to the food tent for recycling in exchange for a level one animal adoption. Contact Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo for more information at 276-6243. The rain date for "Boo! At The Zoo" is Oct. 26.

Brian Nelson is the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo executive director. You may contact him at Visit to become a Friend of Lee Richardson Zoo.