Midsummer Scream Ushers In Halloween Season
Halloween and haunt convention takes place in Long Beach this weekend
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
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It is 92 days till Halloween and I know this because I am eagerly counting them. One sign that Halloween season is in full swing is the arrival of Midsummer Scream, a Halloween and haunt convention in Long Beach.
Aired: July 31, 2019 | Transcript+ Subscribe to this podcast
It is 92 days until Halloween. I know this because I am eagerly counting the days. One sign that Halloween season is in full swing is the arrival of Midsummer Scream, a Halloween and haunt convention in Long Beach.
If you love Halloween, not merely as an annual event but as a way of life, then you now have so much more to help you celebrate 365 days a year. One thing that is more plentiful are conventions devoted to all things dark and scary.
Monsterpalooza (twice a year with the big show in April and Son of Monsterpalooza in September) celebrates movie monsters while TransWorld’s Halloween and Attractions Show is a huge industry show that ambitious home haunters sometimes attend.
Halloween is a year-round event for me with my focus being putting on a home haunt (where I create a different themed haunted house for the neighborhood kids to come to) each Oct. 31. I pick the theme for each haunt on Nov. 1 so I have a whole year to be shopping for props and costumes or creating them. So I look forward to all the conventions devoted to dark themes and Halloween.
Son of Monsterpalooza is coming up in September and is a must if you love horror, special effects and movie monsters. But if your interests are a little broader then Midsummer Scream is the perfect thing for you.
Midsummer Scream started in 2016. I discovered it after I had interviewed Lora Ivanova and David Markland in 2014 for an NPR story about their second year doing ScareLA. In 2016 the two parted ways; Ivanova continued to produce ScareLA (which looks to be on hiatus this year) while Markland went on to create Midsummer Scream that same year.
When Markland — who was running a blog called Creepy LA — launched Midsummer Scream he did it out of a love for Halloween and not because he anticipated how popular the event would become.
“We had 8,000 people throughout the first weekend,” Markland recalled. “And I think this year we are expecting 30,000 people, so I had no idea. I knew there was an audience for it and that's why we did it. But every year seeing it grow is always a nice surprise. We make an effort to try to find the people who are not just directly involved in Halloween but maybe they have an interest in makeup effects or maybe they are (do-it-yourself) people who are excited that they can use those DIY-type skills to do something different.”
Markland points to YouTube as one reason for the rise in popularity of home haunts. YouTube allowed people to share what they had created and provide do-it-yourself videos to instruct others on how to try and create similar make up effects or props or costumes. That community, he said, has helped turn Halloween into a bigger event for everyone.
Now, Midsummer Scream, which takes place Aug. 3-4 at the Long Beach Convention Center, offers a place for that community to come together.
“It's an event made for people who love Halloween whatever that may mean,” Markland said. “We have a dozen haunted houses set up for people who want to get a little scared pretty early. We have all of the major theme parks around Southern California coming and doing a presentation about what they have planned for this year like Halloween Horror Nights we believe is going to reveal what one of the themes of their mazes are.”
The convention will have 350 vendors of all kinds — from costumes for dogs to movie quality props to horror-themed handbags. I have been fortunate to find tentacles perfect for a Cthulhu haunt and a human-sized vampire bat for my Dracula's castle. Attendees will also find how-to seminars, panels on fear, performances, and even a presentation on how to make your haunt more accessible to the deaf.
Claire Dunlap helped Markland launch Midsummer Scream and she’s excited by what you can find on the vendors’ floor.
“You can most likely purchase anything with a Halloween theme at Midsummer Scream,” Dunlap said. “There are people that are selling props, things that you can decorate your home with and we're also going to have a tattoo vendor this year. So if you want to get a Halloween inspired tattoo you can. The thing about our audience is very often it's not just for Halloween. These people live Halloween as a lifestyle as we all do to a certain degree. I mean obviously one of the things that David and I have in common is our love for Halloween and the holiday.”
That love for Halloween means that both Dunlap and Markland are against the petition to change Halloween to the last Saturday in October. They both insist it needs to remain on Oct. 31.
“None of this trying to move it. If they want to move Halloween tell them to try to move Christmas, too,” Dunlap said.
As with all the Halloween conventions I have attended, Midsummer Scream feels inclusive and diverse. There are families, and a fairly balanced mix of men and women, young and old.
Markland said the Long Beach Convention Center provides a great venue.
“It's huge,” he said. “It's a quarter-million square feet of show floor space, one-third of that is devoted to our 100 attractions, the rest of it is all the exhibitors and vendors and then we have over a dozen different breakout rooms where we have classes and different performances happening. It’s a lot of space and we try to make it roomy. We don't try to jam-pack it full so people are like shoulder to shoulder all weekend, that may happen but our goal is to try to make it big but also comfortable for everybody to enjoy it.”
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