We are so in love with the Jacksonville Zoo, and have been since we were kids. Getting to work with them on so many projects is a dream come true. We were asked to work on the Spooktacular project again this year and were thrilled to get the email. It came later than in years past and we were resolving ourselves to the idea that we weren’t going to be involved for 2014. While a little sad we had made peace with it. Then, the message came in and we were on for this exciting, rewarding, fun, and to be honest intensely demanding project.
We have them drop off the costumes after they close the gates each night, and that means we get started at around 11pm or so each night. The Zoo van pulls up in the dark of our parking lot, most of our neighboring businesses have long since closed for the night, and container after container of well used costumes pour into our shop. Since most of the items are machine washable or hand washed we can do it all right in the back of our shop. We get to work sorting by material and color to make sure no dyes bleed over. The first things to get washed are the mascots. They take extra time to dry and we want to make sure that the next volunteers to don the visages of the tiger, the alligator, the rhino, and the others are stepping into a pleasantly clean and properly dried outfit. The rest of the night is a fury of treating stains, checking pockets for bits of candy and snacks, removing hay, and washing washing washing.
We are lucky to have two sets of washers and dryers in the back of our shop that we normally use to pre-clean stained items before we send them to our plant for final cleaning and pressing. Yes, stained items in our shop get washed at least twice. This setup of two washer and dryers has proven to be a requirement for cleaning all of the animals, zombies, witches, and other cast of characters that make Spooktacular the best family friendly Halloween event bar none. Wouldn’t you know it though, this year one of our washers went out on us half way through leaving us with just one washing machine and hundreds of costumes to clean each night. OH NO!
After some failed attempts to revive the fallen washer and some debate on our part as to what to do, we decided to look for a used machine to fill in for the rest of the project until we had time to fix the broken unit. We looked and debated and before we knew it the next night of Spooktacular was on us with only one washer. What normally takes six hours of washing took over eight. This was grueling. So the next day we were up early on 3 hours of sleep and we picked up a used machine to bolster our ranks. Uh oh, a dud. It wasn’t working either. So again a long night of only one machine. We had decided to finish out the project on one washer and deal with it after things settled down a bit.
So one morning after getting home at 8:30 am we get a call from the shop at 9:30 telling us the only remaining washer had jammed up. Oh the luck we have. We had decided that we could finish out the project on one washer, but could we do it on none? Of course not, just a silly question asked on one hour of sleep. So out we run to solve this crisis before the next load of goblins and ghouls was brought to us for cleaning. First, to the shop to tinker with the freshly broken washer. An hour of trial and error and a few cuts later it was working again. Then it was off to the other side of town to exchange the used washer we had gotten a few days ago for another. Back at the shop 3 hours later with fingers crossed we put the replacement used washer in place and what luck, it works. In six hours we went from no washers to two working washers. I felt like a super hero.
The rest of the project went as smooth as a tiger’s dance moves (you had to have gone to Spooktacular to understand). All of the zombies, animals, pirates, storybook heroes, and other creatures of the night have now been cleaned and laid to rest until next Halloween when they will once again come alive to thrill and delight the wide-eyed visitors to Jacksonville Zoo’s Spooktacular 2015. We will be there, will you?
Upon further investigation into why our two primary washers stopped working, it was found that they had ingested a large amount of hay, the kind horses eat. While delicious for cows, it is not so great for drain pumps. Clearing this material has restored our machines to full washing vigor. Just one of the tricks of Halloween 2014.