Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA
Folks, after an action-packed and high attendance weekend, the second annual Midsummer Scream is in the books. In just its sophomore year, this Halloween festival has already reached a popularity that has placed it competitively among Southern California's most interesting conventions. This year was bigger, bolder, and more ambitious than any Halloween gathering before it, and it was a fantastic kick-off to the 2017 haunt season.
New crowds brought new complications, as traffic issues--both pedestrian and vehicular--were frustratingly prevalent the first day. A delayed start to entry didn't help matters either. But then again, that's what happens when attendance doubles from the previous year. By the second day, however, many issues seemed to have been mitigated, resulting in smoother operations. Parking is still a concern around the venue, since it is slow-moving and very conducive to intersection-blocking back-ups. In addition, the exhibition floor already seems to have neared a saturation point, with a plethora of horror fans, cosplayers, haunt monsters, vendors, and purveyors descended upon one space. But the first issue is a city logistical item that the organizers of Midsummer Scream cannot really control, and the second is one of those good problems to have, since it highlights the event's success.
Beyond, those issues and a few major panel late starts on Saturday, Midsummer Scream was a resounding success. There was the usual assortment of panels, of course. Knott's Scary Farm, Halloween Horror Nights, Dark Harbor, Fright Fest, and more presented plenty of exciting news, interesting behind-the-scenes, and nostalgic history for fans to enjoy. New this year was the use of the Terrace Theater--part of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center located in a separate building behind the actual convention center. This added additional walking time and complicated things for those who hopped back and forth between the big panels and happenings on the exhibition and main floors (which I imagine wasn't just me). But the huge capacity of the Terrace Theater at least eliminated the problems of guests turned away from past panels that were overwhelmingly popular, such as the Knott's Scary Farm and Halloween Horror Nights announcement presentations. There were also countless classes for beginning and veteran haunt creators, plus fun screening events for horror movies, short videos, and even maze flow-through videos. These remained in the convention center building, in accessory rooms off the main hall and in the exhibition hall itself.
Guests interested in immersive Halloween experiences were treated to a truly overwhelming collection of miniature mazes, escape rooms, and horror-themed shows. The ever-popular Hall of Shadows yielded over half a dozen attraction tidbits from haunts all across Southern California. The long lines were proof of the zone's popularity, though capacity issues were certainly visible too. Through the exhibition hall, main hall, and even outside the the convention center building, several escape rooms provided smaller versions of their normal offerings, with time blocks quickly filling up first thing in the morning.
Horror performance art was on feature display from troupes such as Zombie Joe's and Force of Nature Productions. Meanwhile, the Decayed Brigade once again thrilled a huge gathering with three shows each day of highly athletic and acrobatic slider work--this year with a three chapter story that spanned the entire day!
All this spooky goodness doesn't even count the countless opportunities for people watching, from fans who dressed up in outfits inspired by their favorite eerie movies or TV shows to elaborate cosplays richly detailing iconic characters of horror lore to the horde of monsters roaming the halls, creeping out anyone unfortunate enough to stray too close. Indeed, at times, the visual stimuli could be almost overpowering.
People watching wasn't limited to seeing characters come to life. Midsummer Scream also provided a venue to meet big names in the horror or thematic design world. Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira, made an appearance on Saturday to have a meet-and-greet with fans (and participate in the announcement that this would be the final year Elvira would be appearing at Knott's Scary Farm). There were other horror celebrities, such as actors Sid Haig, Tony Moran, and Kane Hodder, model and cosplayer LeeAnna Vamp, magician Ed Alonzo, and many more.
It all added up to a rousing success for the Midsummer Scream team. Major kudos go forth to the leading members--Executive Director David Markland, Executive Producer Gary Baker, Creative Director Rick West, Producer Johanna Atilano, and Supervising Producer Claire Dunlap. But beyond that, major props go out to all the volunteers staffing the event, the mini-haunts who devoted their own time and resources to create haunted labors of love for the public, the make-up artists making creatures look amazing on the convention center floor, and all the unseen operators who keep things running. There certainly were some growing pains observed this past weekend, but the event overall was thrilling and fun and a wonderful coming together for the haunt community.
We'll cover the various aspects of Midsummer Scream this week in greater detail, like some of the major panels on Saturday and Sunday, the Hall of Shadows, sights around the exhibition and main floors, and even a close-up at the Decayed Brigade's enthralling shows. Today was just a general first reaction to the events of the weekend. If you didn't go this year, and you're a fan of things macabre, you missed out. But if that was the case, mark your calendars again for this time next year. The Midsummer Scream team is already plotting out what 2018 will bring!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.