‘Nightmare in Piazza’ spooks lunchgoers


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Students having lunch in the Piazza Dining Center on Halloween ate amongst severed heads, creepy clowns and other ghoulish decorations.

“Nightmare in Piazza” began seven years ago as a titleless Halloween event, each year with a different theme and layout.

The food sometimes took on new, spooky names and appearances as well. The purple punch used to be called “Witch’s Potion” and some sugar cookies were “taken from Red Riding Hood after she died.” Bread bowls for soup were green in color.

This entire creepy creation is made possible by Kerry Hopkins, food service supervisor in Piazza. Hopkins is also a local artist and owner of Midnight Creations in La Porte City.

All of the decorations are donated by Hopkins. However, he actually hand-makes a lot of the props that he brings into the dining center.

“You don’t go a lot of places where somebody is making a mask — you can go buy a mask anywhere, but there’s not a lot of places you can go to see it sculpted, painted or all that stuff,” Hopkins said. “That’s what I like about it — making stuff. It was like a hobby that just grew, like anything.”

The idea for the event first began when Hopkins overheard Matt Copp, assistant manager, discussing plans to have someone come in and decorate for Halloween.

“Well, you don’t need to get somebody,” Hopkins spoke up. “I’ll just bring some stuff.”

Since its beginnings in 2012, the Piazza Halloween event — first coined “Nightmare in Piazza” three years ago — has grown in size solely because Hopkins brings in more and more decor each year.

“I brought stuff and nobody ever said to stop bringing stuff, so the first year it was smaller,” Hopkins said. “People liked it, so it’s grown into this.”

This year’s Halloween set-up was an Area 51/mad scientist spectacle. A photobooth wall was set up outside the main entrance, and zombie mannequins in Piazza coats were stationed just inside the main entrance, along with a mad scientist. Some of the employees were even wearing “blood-stained” Piazza coats while they worked.

“Growing up, I really liked ‘Silent Hill’ and ‘Resident Evil’ and that stuff,” Hopkins said. “[The zombie mannequins] is just, like, right out of that kind of thing, because it’s fake. I don’t like real blood and real gore.”

Hopkins said he doesn’t really have a plan when it comes to this project.

“I try to have an idea and it has failed me every single year,” Hopkins said. “I try to have an idea and try to get it done ahead of time. It always seems like I’m behind.”

Hopkins brought in all of the props and decorations on Saturday, Oct. 27; however, the decorations are not set up until after Piazza closes on Oct. 30 each year.

“I never know how long it will take at night,” Hopkins said. “It would be nice if we finished before we open [for lunch].”

“I’ve always liked [Halloween] because it’s just fun,” he said. “If you don’t like it, then people don’t go to haunted houses and they don’t do that stuff, but most people seem to like it.”

Many students have proven to be avid admirers of the annual event.

“I think it’s awesome!” said sophomore art education major Ashley Coulter.

“It’s a lot of fun,” agreed her sister, Kari Coulter, a senior majoring in business management. “I think it helps build more of a fun environment in the dining center.”

Some students, however, weren’t as excited about the event as others seemed to be.

“The first year, my appetite went away when I was getting my food and I was like, ‘Oh, a severed head — this isn’t very appetizing,’” said one fourth-year student who wished to remain anonymous.

Annie Karr, assistant director of residence marketing said, “It’s important to note, too, that we make sure in all of our materials leading up to [Nightmare in Piazza], that if this isn’t their thing, strobe lights are an issue for them, that we encourage them to go over to Rialto for a bit more low-key experience.”

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