By Zech Wheeler
Globe Staff Writer
NEOSHO, Mo. —
Lakin Bolton has never been a fan of horror movies. The 17-year-old Neosho High School senior would much rather spend her time outdoors among nature or inside a stable caring for animals than watching movies.
But after being tasked with filling a barn with spooks and horrors instead of cows and horses, Bolton stepped up to the challenge. She recently organized the Haunted Barn for the annual Barnyard Days event in Neosho.
Steve Roark, owner of Circle R Ranch and organizer of Barnyard Days, said Bolton’s haunted house was a screaming success.
“She did an excellent job,” Roark said. “She and a couple of her friends worked their hearts out to get ready.”
Originally, Bolton sought a job working with cattle at the ranch. But because her school schedule conflicted, Roark said he had nothing available in that area. He did, however, have an opening for the haunted barn.
Intended for kids, the barn was meant to offer playful spooks instead of psychological scares, Roark said.
As a member of Future Farmers of America, Bolton became familiar with Roark. Her time spent working for Barnyard Days counts toward her required supervised agricultural experience.
“I got online and looked up different ways to do a haunted barn,” Bolton said. “I had no idea how to be scary. So, I just looked stuff up to see how it would work.”
Bolton said her design was aimed at attracting children more than adults. She opted for gravestones and open caskets instead of chainsaw-wielding maniacs and gory aesthetics.
“(The Haunted Barn) turned out really, really good,” Bolton said. “A lot of the adults didn’t think it was scary, but it was for the kids anyway.”
Bolton’s design included several different areas: A black-lit graveyard adorned with graves and coffins; another room featuring creepy dolls and cobwebs littered with spiders; and the “bloody room,” which consisted of strobe lights and scary music.
Wise beyond her years
The main thing that Bolton learned from the experience was not to procrastinate, she said.
“It will bite you in your rear,” she said. “And I learned that things don’t always go as planned. You just need to learn how to work around it.”
But according to feedback from visitors and observations from Roark, Bolton handled the barn like a seasoned business owner. Roark said several parents mentioned how much their kids enjoyed the barn. He said he was impressed with Bolton’s ability to lead and delegate.
“I watched as she directed her friends,” Roark said. “The way she asked them to do things, she had it all organized.”
Bolton initially had a budget of about $50. By seeking sponsorship and borrowing materials, she was able to stretch her budget enough to create a profitable enterprise, Roark said.
Bolton said she is planning on organizing the haunted barn next year as well. She also anticipates an improved turnout.
Beyond the scope of next year’s event, Bolton said she is looking forward to turning 18 and progressing her career in agriculture after high school.
“I plan on going to Crowder College for my first two years with the A+ program,” Bolton said. “And then I think Missouri State or (University of Arkansas), and I would really like to become an agriculture teacher.”
She said that some of her most notable experiences have been handling animals and performing artificial inseminations over the course of last summer.
“I like being outdoors,” Bolton said. “I’d rather be outside any day than stuck inside. My (agriculture) teachers do a lot of hands-on stuff. I don’t know. It just really intrigued me the moment that I started FFA.”
Roark said that whatever she chooses to do, she will excel.
“I could see her having her own business,” Roark said. “She has the discipline, and she meets people well. When you meet a bright person like her, you know they will accomplish something.”
Features Editor Joe Hadsall contributed to this report.