GENOA – For Jennifer and Adam Drendel of Genoa, Halloween is more than just one day on the calendar.
The couple runs HauntedIllinois.com, a directory of Illinois’ haunted houses, haunted hayrides, corn mazes, home haunts, yard displays and other Halloween attractions and events.
“We’re in the Halloween industry 365 days a year,” Jennifer Drendel said. “We prepare all year for it. It’s like Christmas for us, something we’re always looking forward to. Halloween is definitely our favorite holiday.”
Each October, the Drendels travel throughout the state of Illinois to write reviews and pick their top 10 and top three haunted attractions. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many haunted houses are not open this year.
To celebrate Halloween and to share the spooky holiday season with their community, the Drendels created the Haunted Hometown Halloween Decorating Contest. There are 17 houses in Genoa participating in this year’s contest.
“With this year being what it is with the pandemic, and the threat of Halloween being canceled, we wanted to give our neighbors here in town something fun and safe to do during the Halloween season,” Jennifer Drendel said. “It’s also an excuse to decorate and celebrate more than just on the day of Halloween.”
Adam Drendel grew up in Genoa, and his family ran a haunted house above one of the stores in town during the early 1990s.
“I’ve always loved Halloween, and I know a lot of other people here in town love it, too,” he said. “Driving around and seeing the different Halloween decorations is something fun and safe you can do with your whole family, especially in the wake of COVID.”
To register a house in the contest or to vote, visit www.hauntedillinois.com/genoa. Voting ends 11:59 p.m. Oct. 30, and the winner will be announced on Halloween, Oct. 31.
The house with the most votes will receive a prize package featuring items from Sugar on Top Bake Shop, The Enchanged Valley Farm, HauntedIllinois.com, Gabriela’s Sweets & Eats and Latsis Bakery.
Viewing the decorated houses can be done from inside a car. HauntedIllinois.com links to a map of the houses decorated for this year’s contest.
“There have been some pretty elaborate setups so far,” Jennifer Drendel said. “They vary in style. Some are brightly lit, colorful and fun, others are dark, disturbing and spooky.”
“I’m surprised at how creative the displays are,” Adam Drendel said. “With the level of detail and theming, you know they spent many hours on their display. Some people have been going all out.”
Pam Mettler decorated her front yard with a display titled “The Graveyard – Dancing Skeletons.” Her elaborate display, located at 817 Nicholas Circle in Genoa, features dancing skeletons, a skeleton hearse, a cemetery and pumpkins.
“I decorate more for Halloween than I do for Christmas, so I decided to enter into the contest,” Mettler said. “I think a Halloween house decorating contest brings the community together. Because of COVID, people are staying in a bit more and aren’t getting out and about. People can enjoy the decorations by driving by. They can celebrate Halloween in a safe, socially-distant way with the contest this year.”