HUDSON — As the weather cools down and the moon lights the night, it’s time again for the 17th annual Total Insanity Haunt Park.

On Friday evening, people lined up to ride the Hayride, take out some frustration on the Car Bash and brave the horrors of the Hafaker Manor and the Once upon a Nightmare trail.

Reactions ranged from screams to exclamations of “Aw, heck no” and “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Chad McClung brought his daughter and her friends to try out the haunt park for the second year. Eleven-year-old Hannah McClung and 10-year-old Gracie Mettlen went through the attractions last year, and they said they were so happy to be back with more of their friends.

“It was really scary,” Hannah said. “I’m still shaking. It was fun and scary, and I really want to go back there again.”

“It was terrifying, but it was fun,” Gracie said. “There were clowns and smoke and I want to go back, too.”

Ten-year-old Kendall Moore and 12-year-old Makenzie Parrish joined their friends to see the haunt park for the first time.

“It was scary. I close my eyes the whole time,” Kendall said. “We were all like holding on to each other.”

“I don’t even know how we got through there. We were like shuffling,” Chad McClung said.

The haunt park’s goal is to raise $45,000 for the Hudson Volunteer Fire Department, and it does that by providing an outlet for the community’s thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies of all ages.

Clay Welch has led the haunt park for several years, but he first got involved while volunteering his time as an electrician.

“At that point, I just fell in love,” he said. “I love creating an environment, creating a room and creating an atmosphere where people can forget their worries and do something thrilling and exciting.”

Personally, Welch said he doesn’t enjoy being scared or watching scary movies, so he makes it a point to focus on story and character, not just fear.

People of all ages volunteer their time to be a part of the haunt park, providing their creative talents and chunks of their time for makeup, practices and performances. Austin Knight, Caley Dwire and Jeffry Brotherton have performed in different acts throughout the years.

“I’ve always been in love with scary stuff, and I really wanted to join,” Caley said. “I love watching their faces as they get scared.”

“I didn’t really have anything to do, so I thought, ‘I guess I’ll join,’” Austin said. “The sheer enjoyment of seeing them get scared is great. Being in a mask lets you kind of be a different person than you are on the outside.”

“I joined because I thought it would be a cool thing to start trying to do, and the first day I was here, I fell in love with it,” Jeffry said. “It lets you escape reality, be a different person.”

Over the years, being in the haunt park has helped them open up more, be more confident, break out of their comfort zone, and, most of all, it has given them a family, they said.

Brandy Holt has been involved in the haunt park for 15 years. She is one of the primary make-up artists and helps run some of the attractions.

“This is a lot of fun,” she said. “The laughs that we get down here are great, and I love seeing customers. I enjoy the organized chaos and the kids.”

Well into the evening on Friday, an alarm sounded, and as nearby firefighters rushed to their places, the reason for the haunt park was made all that more apparent.

“This is an opportunity to feel like you’re doing something for someone else,” Welch said. “Everything I do is for the Hudson Volunteer Fire Department. All-in-all, you have to remember this is a fundraiser for the fire department, and the fire department is an important part of this community.”

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.