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Annual 'Haunted Yard' creators are experts when it comes to Halloween

Ten years after its inaugural scaring, the Haunted Yard in Warren, Minn., is still enjoying its small-town fame -- and the screams it produces, which its creators say might be overheard from neighboring Oslo, Minn.

The Knutsons' haunted yard
The Knutsons' haunted yard display in Warren, Minn., is a neighborhood favorite with a 10-year history.

Ten years after its inaugural scaring, the Haunted Yard in Warren, Minn., is still enjoying its small-town fame -- and the screams it produces, which its creators say might be overheard from neighboring Oslo, Minn.

Tammy and Stephannie Knutson (sisters-in-law) share a passion for Halloween and decorate Tammy's entire yard on Johnson Avenue for the holiday each year. In its infancy, the display was small, but now stretches to the back of the yard in what Steph calls a "ridiculous" and elaborate funhouse for kids -- and adults, too.

"I think we have as much fun setting it up as the kids do seeing it," she says.

Tammy says her favorite part of the ritual is the reactions of both kids and parents. "That is really why we keep doing this."

The pair has help building the display from their husbands and adult children, but put in hours of work in the days leading up to the main event.

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"We work really hard the day of Halloween and the two or three days before," Stephannie says, adding that they see about 200 visitors when it's open Halloween night, some who return twice or three times.

The Haunted Yard is interactive and different every year.

All out

Both Halloween enthusiasts say they have always loved the holiday and enjoy being able to celebrate it so loudly. They don't cut corners in developing their costumes, either.

"When I was little, it was mostly about the candy, but now it is the thrill of transforming into another character and creating a fun night for the kids," Tammy says.

"We go all out," Stephannie says.

Tammy doesn't just pull out the big guns for Halloween. She and her husband Scott have won the Annual Holiday Lighting Contest in Warren and aren't afraid to be bold with their decorating for the Fourth of July.

"I have a wonderful husband who helps with the construction portion of all our ideas for each of the holidays," she says.

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Naturally, the accumulation of decorations in the past 10 years has gotten enormous and perhaps border line out of hand. Their impressive collection of Halloween paraphernalia dominates the storage space in what they call the Holiday Barn.

"We try to keep it organized," Stephannie laughs.

And they name their props, too, which can simplify the decorating and building process for the family team.

"If I say, 'Bring me Brenda,' everyone knows who I'm talking about," Stephannie says.

This year's newest addition: an inflatable grim reaper the ladies lovingly named El Rodo.

A little creepy

The target audience for the storied Haunted Yard is kids around 8 years old, Stephannie says.

"There's a few that are a little leery about checking it out," she says. "It's creepy if you're 8."

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When a coworker of Tammy's brought her young daughter to the Haunted Yard for the first time, the young girl ran screaming back to the car after seeing Scott in a grim reaper costume.

"She tried to lock herself in and her parents had to take her home," Tammy says. "She was done.

"Five years later, that same girl is now one of our participants."

Tammy and Steph look forward to creating their masterpiece each year for their community and don't plan to end the tradition any time soon.

"We just want people to have fun," Steph says.

Related Topics: OSLO
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