Lollies and Tiggers and Pooh Bears, oh my! A spirited gathering of such classic characters is haunting -- in a friendly way -- the Enchanted Castle, which transforms the Burr Homestead each year into a Halloween treat without scary tricks.
The event returned Saturday for its 20th Halloween season, welcoming youngsters for a tour of seven rooms, each reflecting a theme related to a children's fable.
In one room, Cinderella holds court. In another, Beauty and the Beast welcome kids. In yet another, the Little Mermaid beckons. The event is sponsored by and benefits the Auxiliary of Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers at Bridgeport Hospital. Auxiliary members decorate the homestead each year for two weeks of Halloween fun.
"Stuff was originally store-bought or created by our group," said Shaun Amberg, president of the auxiliary. "The genie (from the tale of Aladdin) is a 20-year-old prop from the very first show."
Students, from local middle and high schools -- 28 in all, Plus a few adults, like Ahlbin therapists -- portray the storybook characters. "Even the director of the center, Patrick Schminke, and his assistant, Lisa Casio, get involved as king and queen of the castle, respectively," said Amberg.
On Sunday, First Selectman Michael Tetreau was scheduled to be king and Sheryl Shaugnessy as his queen. Tetreau was expected to read a proclamation, extolling the Enchanted Castle's two-decade reign as a Halloween tradition in town.
The Enchanted Castle "takes four days to set up and over 250 people volunteer to coordinate and make it happen," said Amberg. "The community has been wonderful in supporting us, including local businesses like the Pantry, Subway and Roly Poly, who have donated food to feed our volunteers."
When the weather doesn't cooperate, the event becomes all the more challenging. "Last year, Hurricane Sandy came through," recalled Amberg. "We lost power the day it arrived, which was fortunately right at the end of our run. The year before, it was snow that affected us, but again it was right at the end."
In addition to the tour of storybook rooms, young visitors children receive candy treats, can shop at a Boo-tique for Halloween-themed items and popcorn, and participate in a Take-A-Chance auction of items donated by local businesses.
"The Enchanted Castle is a tradition at Halloween time in Fairfield," said Amberg. "Students playing characters now remember coming here when they were younger. They really look forward to it."
The event raises about $30,000 yearly for Ahlbin programs. "We expect the same this year as long as we don't have a snowstorm or hurricane!" said Amberg.
THE ENCHANTED CASTLE
Burr Homestead, 739 Old Post Road
Sunday, Oct.20, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wednesday-Friday, Oct. 23-25: 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 28 and Tuesday, Oct. 29, 3:30-6:30 p.m.