f r e q u e n t l y a s k e d
q u e s t i o n s
Photos by Mike Heberger
How long does it take to build?
Building the ship is an unbelievable amount of work....but it's actually the easiest part of the whole project. I start 8-10 months early working on putting together a soundtrack and programming lights and special effects. The soundtrack and light programming takes an endless amount of time. My goal is to have the music, lights and effects tell a story and provide a memorable experience for the viewers.
Most props are made from scratch well in advance. The masts, sails, rope ladders, cannons, Kraken, barrels, etc all have to be done in advance and there are multiple steps involved for each one. Things that seem simple, actually aren't. For example, fog machines all need to be wired with relays, Cannons need to be wired with electric solenoids, etc.
The ship gets put together in few days once we are in the Halloween season. After the ship is up, connecting the electronics takes a long time and it involves lots of testing and trials. In the past, there has been over 5000 feet of cabling run throughout the front yard. For me, August - October include early mornings, late nights, full weekends and a severe lack of sleep.
All that is just a part of the process. Coordinating the season is an entire secondary job. I spend a long time working to make sure everything runs smoothly. For example, a lot of details need to be worked out with the Community Organizations (Children's Hospital & Open Door Mission), The Actors, Monroe County Sheriff, Food Vendors, Neighbors, Donation Websites, News Papers, Magazines, News Channels etc.
Build pictures are on Instagram @MegaMarioHalloween and I will continue to add more are we progress through the season.
How much does all this cost?
A lot. I spend much of the year scrolling through FB marketplace and craigslist looking for cheap materials... such as rope, scrap lumber, old barnwood, PVC pipes etc. So, most things are inexpensive... or even free. The electronics and other supplies (fog machines, fog juice, fire blasters, fire fluid, rope, rope, and more rope, lights, cabling/extension cords, screws, hardware, paint, and any props I didn't make, etc) can be very pricey. I set money aside throughout the year to help cover the cost.
I need to give a special thank you my barn wood supplier who has donated a lot of wood for the Pirates ships. My ships have been assembled with wood that came from barns as old as 1893.
Jordan Gelser is a barn wood enthusiast and wood worker based out of Lima, NY. He has a unique business of repurposing the wood from old barns in our area and creating some amazing pieces.
Where do you store this thing?
Each year, I take the entire thing apart - right down to the last screw. I save everything. Most of the props are in stored in my basement, shed, garage, and garage attic. The wood is stored at an offsite property.
What do you do for a living?
I work full time as a co-owner/vibration analyst at 4X Diagnostics. We are a local, family business based out of Churchville, NY. We provide vibration testing and machinery-health testing and analysis services across the country. I don't build pirate ships for a living,... even though it seems that way lately. I build these Halloween displays because it's something I enjoy, as a hobby, and it's a chance to be creative and build things with my kids. It's also a great way to give back to the community through donation events.
What do your neighbors think of all this?
They love it! I have the best neighbors ever. I've received nothing but excitement with 100% support for everything we do. I'm sure some people could do without the traffic.... but at least traffic jams shouldn't be problem this year with the support of the MC Sheriff (see the "visit" page for more information). We've limited our show days this year to try to ease the toll on the neighborhood. I always kindly ask for everyone's patience during the season as we create quite a bit of noise and draw large crowds. It's two long weekends... and then we're done.
2020 was supposed to be the last year for a Pirates of the Caribbean theme. But we had an overwhelmingly positive response and a lot of requests to do it again. So, you got it! I'm not sure when we will change themes.
That said - going forward I would love to find an indoor venue large enough to build the ship where it can stay permanently. An indoor area would provide protection from the weather, meaning more special effects and more details. In the off season, the ship could be used for special occasions or events with the pirate actors - such as birthday parties, plays - or other entertainment for children, book readings etc.