Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA
It's taken twice as long as last year, but we're finally coming upon the end of our Midsummer Scream coverage for this year. We've checked out the panels and presentations for Saturday and Sunday, plus the spooky Hall of Shadows and the bountiful entertainment options. Today, it's time to explore the exhibition floor--the heart of this massive convention--to see the booths, exhibitors, workshops, demonstrations, and costumed people and models out and about.
The Exhibition Floor
Like any convention, the heart and soul of Midsummer Scream was the exhibition hall, which featured countless booths from a huge variety of horror-related vendors. Make-up and effects kits? Check. Masks and Halloween theming? Check. Special effects? Check. Horror art, literature, and crafts? Check x 3. Celebrity meet-and-greets? Boths for haunted attractions? Mini escape rooms? Horror themed novelties? Props? Gags? Virtual reality displays? All could be found throughout the massive exhibition floor, which took up the main expo space and spilled into the expanded Hall of Shadows!
There definitely some popular areas on the exhibition hall. The Knott's Scary Farm booth featured yet another incredible facade themed to the new scare zone, Forsaken Lake, and had a continual line of fans wanting to take pictures with some of Haunt's most iconic monsters. The Bearded Lady Mystic Museum offered an assortment of eclectic and creepy goods and merchandise. Delusion offered its 35 minute VR experience to a long waitlist of eager fans. There were long lines to meet and get autographs and photos with visiting celebrities such as Cassandra Peterson (in a non-Elvira appearance), Thora Birch, Kimberly J. Brown, and Leeanna Vamp.
Except for the early morning and late afternoon hours, the most apparent sign of how big Midsummer Scream had expanded was most evident on the exhibition floor, which was exceptionally crowded through multiple aisles and passageways. Although it didn't feel like it, event organizers had actually widened the walkways and increased the overall square footage of the hall from the previous year. But there were so many more people who packed Midsummer Scream that the opposite felt true. Filtering through the many booths and displays in the exhibition show floor definitely required patience, though it also gave more time to admire and take in all of the creative and artistic talents on display.
The sprawling expo space was also home to a curious cast of characters associated with vendors or haunted attractions promoting themselves at Midsummer Scream. While plenty of guests showed up in costume (more on that in a moment), there were also those who served as models for various costumes, make-up demonstrations, and prosthetics, as well as actors serving as viral advertising for various horror-associated attractions such as the Murder Co. escape room and Just Fix It Productions' The Willows.
Overall, the exhibition hall was a great place to spend browsing and observing. Whether it be an aspiring haunter or someone who just enjoys the atmosphere, this part of Midsummer Scream certainly had plenty for everyone.
Sharing parcels of the space were various workshops presented by various local haunted attraction groups and communities. At one station, guests might learn how to carve foam tombstones, while at another, family-friendly Halloween decorating exercises might run. There were also lectures on spooky cosplay, airbrush techniques, and miniature Halloween displays, among others. So even for those seeking to merely learn rather than purchase anything, Midsummer Scream offered a wealth of options.
I mentioned last year that Midsummer Scream had really come into its own as a con, because of the number of people visiting in costume of some sort. This year presented even greater growth, with even more guests dressed up as their favorite horror character, gory victim, insidious creature, or creative mash-up of themes. Whether it was in the Hall of Shadows, on the exhibition hall, or even outside the convention center, there was plenty of spooky eye candy to behold.
One of the particularly noticeable patterns was how much of the dress-up came in group form--be with among friends or with family members. There was a certain humorous juxtaposition between the dark and sometimes disturbing horror imagery abounding and the family participation. It was especially amusing when parents would have young children in costume. But far from feeling exploitative, this came off as adorable and charming--kids innocently playing make-believe in the world of horror.
While such a contrast might seem inappropriate, it actually makes a lot of sense. The horror and haunt community has always been a family in and of itself. It is a community of people who might otherwise be ostracized because of their fascination and passion with elements of the macabre. And whereas ordinary society might judge because of such interests, the haunt community provides an accepting environment that doesn't care about conformity. So in that sense, everyone is united in a common bond under common (though not necessarily commonplace) interests.
What made the Midsummer Scream people watching refreshing was the variety of participation. There were some guests who came in stunning, technically complex costumes. But there were also those with more casual costumes, or creative costumes that blended themes and aesthetics. Each brought a different flavor of haunt passion, which was pretty cool to see.
There were humorous moments too. Seeing two Michael Myerses take a selfie together was a uniquely Age Of Social Media moment. Watching a little toddler run around mimicking a horror movie slasher villain was darkly ironic. Catching monsters doing everyday mundane activities like having lunch provided an anchor that all of this was rooted in make-believe, while reinforcing the escapist allure of the haunt and horror world.
As with any sort of voluntary costume environment, Midsummer Scream provided an outlet for fans to express themselves and show their enthusiasm. It's no surprise that they provided a plethora of photo opportunities for us as we walked around.
That wraps up another year for the convention that kicks off the Southern California Halloween season. In its third year, Midsummer Scream has exploded in popularity, and though crowds and congestion inside and outside of the Convention Center did create some hassle, they weren't enough to overshadow the success of the overall convention. With so much to offer for haunt fans, and such motivating and empowering examples of haunts and spooky attractions on display, Midsummer Scream has cemented itself as the premiere Halloween and horror expo in Southern California.
Next year's Midsummer Scream will return to the Long Beach Convention Center on August 3-4. If you're a haunt fan in any capacity, you'll be remiss to miss this fantastic event. Kudos to everyone involved in putting this massive undertaking together, from the Midsummer Scream producers to the volunteer staff to the make-up artists and performers to the haunted attractions purveyors to the countless vendors and exhibitors to the industry professionals who bring their world to the fans. All of you have created this wonderful little niche that reinforces why we love the Halloween season so much!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.