Castle on Grandview Drive Brings Free Halloween Fun to Peoria

PEORIA – While an extra special Halloween has long been a tradition at the castle on Grandview Drive, the current owner of the house is going above and beyond.

This year’s event, the ninth hosted by Peoria dermatologist Dr. Carl Soderstrom, will feature an extensive set featuring actors re-enacting scenes from the movie “Beetlejuice.” The free event is regularly attended by some 3,000 trick-or-treaters.

“The amount of work and time that goes into this is about the same as a theater production,” said production director Travis Olson, a board member of Peoria Players Theater who has directed more than 100 community theater productions over the years. “We have been planning this for about a year now. We started brainstorming ideas on November 1 last year. In the summer we started building props.”

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Travis Olson assembles a giant skeleton outside Soderstrom Castle on Thursday, October 21, 2021. The decorations will promote the Peoria Players Theater annual Halloween event.

The crafty details

After walking past the fire-breathing dragons at the end of the driveway, a feature that greets trick-or-treaters every year, visitors will walk into Dante’s Inferno.

“If you know the movie, Beetlejuice dances for it, so we blew it up to life size. We have a giant tombstone that replicates what’s in the movie, and we have other actors doing things that are reminiscent of the movie,” Olson said. trick-or-treaters received a candy bar via a long parachute — a feature left over from last year’s event, when COVID-19 social distancing measures were strictly enforced.

Ben Delaney and Clifford Clark carry a box for one of the giant skeletons at Soderstrom Castle on Thursday, October 21, 2021.

“This year we are doing a social distancing event where we are still aware of COVID. All our actors will wear masks and this year we will be using the candy canes again. You will receive your candy bar through the arms of Beetlejuice,’ Olson said.

In addition to trick-or-treating, visitors can also enjoy a drive-by event from Wednesday through Saturday. A professionally designed projection will illuminate the castle, while music and fire-breathing dragons complete the picture.

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Netherworld help from Peoria Players

Trick-or-Treaters line up for the Halloween event outside the castle on Grandview Drive in 2019, the first year Peoria Players did production.  A surprise snowstorm didn't dampen the spirits.

For the past three years, Peoria Players has been running the Halloween extravaganza at the castle.

“The first few years we did it ourselves, and the decoration and costumes, everything, got a little overwhelming,” said Steve Soderstrom, son of Carl Soderstrom, who leads the event. “Peoria Players Theater specializes in all this stuff, sound and lighting, costumes, actors, music, and I’d done some musicals there and got to know the people really well, so we decided to let them arrange Halloween, and then we would make a donation every year.”

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