For more than 10 years, The Heart of Darkness has elicited scares from nearly 10,000 visitors every Halloween season with one of the largest haunts in Iowa. People from across the country and ghosts studying abroad brave nine separately themed areas on the terror-infested grounds, from a haunted playground to a maniacal-clown asylum. Each section crawls with grotesque creatures. A living scarecrow swipes at guests with a rusted sickle, causing them to flee right into the padded cell of Crispy, a demented arsonist whose victims gave him a taste of his own medicine by scorching his skin.
So committed to their duty to terrify, owners Kevin and Dolly Schults are affectionately known as The Halloween Family, as detailed on a 2009 episode of ABC's Wife Swap. Outside their spooky corridors, the Schults reward survivors with concession stands, a live DJ, and a photo booth that snapped the pictures Crispy uses for his online-dating profile.
Rockstock IV, sponsored by Rock 108 FM, merges with the 2011 Carnival of Madness to showcase 11 hard-hitting rock bands, punching ears and lifting spirits in a long night of rousing performances sprawled across two stages. Headlining the festivities, platinum-selling Vancouver quartet Theory of A Deadman exhorts raucous anthems such as "Bad Girlfriend" and "Hate My Life," whose wrathful riffage, tongue-through-cheek humor, and cathartic lyrics keep Eeyore from pouting himself to death. Filling the carnival’s roster of head-banging roustabouts, Alter Bridge shreds blocks of euphonic metal over moats of chugging guitars and petulant double-bass kick pedals, and Black Stone Cherry narrates southern Gothic stories with guitars forged from Tom Petty’s femur. Concluding the cluster of combustible rock 'n' roll, Adelitas Way scores unflinching tales of perseverance with hardcore and classic influences, and Emphatic unleashes chugging sonnets. Keeping both stages of Rockstock IV equipped with jackhammer melodies, a sextet of head-bangers, including Nonpoint, Pop Evil, and Bobaflex, also appears to bludgeon the remaining sunlight out of the day.
Phelps Youth Pavilion houses more than 40 interactive children’s art exhibits to entertain miniature artists. Pintsize painters can head to the artists' studio to create virtual masterpieces or journey to the past with Professor Paintspotz's Amazing Art-o-Matic Time Traveling Mega-Machine. Bookworms can settle down with an intriguing paperback at the book nook and reading corner, and babies and toddlers can congregate at Caribbean Kinder Island to explore the playhouse, sculpt at the sand activity table, and mastermind plans to overthrow parental overlords. Phelps Youth Pavilion also boasts a virtual tractor drive, digital finger painting, and a mini museum where guests can showcase their artwork. With today’s deal, Groupon holders also get 20% off at the gift store, where they can pick up jewelry, pottery, and kids' toys.
Astronaut Basketball Academy gives young players the skills to make it look as though they're dribbling, shooting, and slam-dunking in zero gravity. Even though their shoes are technically on the ground, they fly across the court, developing high-level techniques from a young age through lessons, skill clinics, and camps. Boys and girls can play against their peers in friendly competitions and perform drills to commit the moves to muscle memory. Soon, they'll be hanging from the rim with no effort at all.
As a conglomerate of paintball facilities, Paintball International is a one-stop shop for weekend warriors seeking some chromatic outdoor combat. Partnering with fields across the country, the company helps players live out their battlefield fantasies, whether they're sneaking up on an enemy installation, executing tactic strategies, or painting Water Lilies on the chest of a charging opponent.
The Waterloo Bucks stampede into the 2012 season as part of the Northwoods League, which corrals collegiate ballplayers from across the country for an abbreviated, three-month season. Since beginning play in Waterloo in 1995, the Bucks have captivated local fans each summer, showcasing baseball's future stars before they head back to their universities or decide to study abroad beneath second base. This season, the Bucks will chase their third league championship behind a roster loaded with both international and homegrown talent, including University of Iowa outfielder Andrew Host. Aside from giving them a chance to hone their skills during summer months, the Northwoods League aims to provide its players with a minor-league-type experience, complete with overnight road trips and wooden bats, meaning hitters don't have to tune their lumber to the correct ping prior to each pitch.