Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2008 Midwest Haunters Convention
June 21, 2008
Greetings, Fellow Haunters:
I don’t have the first idea how many haunters attended last weekend’s Midwest Haunters Convention in Columbus, Ohio. I’m not even sure the attendance actually grew from 2007. What made judging the crowd difficult for me was that, for the first time, the show took place in a true convention hall.
For comparison’s sake: when the convention was last held in downtown Columbus (2006), the vendor area was a 7200 square foot ballroom. This year the vendors, auction areas, a relaxation area for attendees and a 30' x 30' inflatable haunt were all placed in the 100,000+ square foot structure that is called Hall E - F on the convention center’s map. All this haunt activity I’ve mentioned took up barely a third of this large hall. But stand back and think about the remarkable difference in size: 7200 square feet versus 35,000, or something like that, in just two years. We in Ohio are so thrilled that you have approved of the type of haunt convention we put on.
The aisleways in the vendor area were wide; at least 10 feet. Upon looking at the photographs I took, they might have even been 12 feet wide. Now you know why judging the crowd was something I could not wrap my arms around this year. Plenty of happy people came through the hall’s eight doors, but they were spread out in a much larger space than ever before.
I had a relaxing time at MHC, and I hope the same was true for you.
I walked in to the hotel’s bar at around 9:30 on Thursday evening. There were only a handful of haunters there, sipping drinks and quietly relieved to find themselves in the company of other haunters. The long bus tour to the Cincinnati area that day was not due back for a few more hours. So I sat for a while and chatted a few people up. Despite the obstacles, I drove to my brother’s house in Bexley not long afterward.
The obstacles I referred to were the many dead traffic lights in downtown Columbus, and a complete blackout in some suburbs. Bexley was one of them. As I creeped along the near-black streets, I would see only a candle or two in the windows of each of the houses I passed by. The same was true of my brother’s house. I found the three members of his family playing cards around the dining room table by the light of a single candle. A huge thunderstorm had bullied its way through the central part of the city around 6:30 that evening. As a testament to its strength, the storm made the front page of Saturday morning’s Dispatch.
Friday was a day filled with contrasting events. In the morning I was a certified gopher for whatever vendor needed some muscle. I lugged in batches of steel shelving for one vendor and then hauled in dollies of boxed goods for two other vendors. At the far rear of the hall were loading docks for 6 trucks. There was also a drive-up area for small trucks that pulled a rental trailer. This area was a real circus on Saturday morning.
We (meaning the MHC work crew) were supposed to get possession of the exhibit hall at 10 AM. I arrived at 9:30 just to make sure I were there on time. But we didn’t get into high gear until around 10:30 that morning. As soon as we got the green light, people started setting up their booths like crazy.
The previous evening, my high-school nephew Sean Hamilton had asked me to take him to the convention center Friday morning so he could help, too. Sean and I did a fair amount of manual labor together early in the morning. At some point I told him “I’m going to visit the vendors who have already set up their booths and see if they need any special help.”
Later, I learned that Sean had glommed on to a new vendor at this years show, a company called Sophisticated Terror out of Kansas. The fellow’s name who ran the booth is Kane, and his big prop was a replica of an Easter Island stone god. Later, Sean told me that he had fun helping them set up their booth. The people from Sophisticated Terror told me the same thing, only in reverse.
Sean seems to be following in his Uncle Rex’s footsteps. I was a theater rat for nearly a decade before I first became involved in haunted attractions. My nephew seems to be attracted to the physical side of the trade.
What I try to do is be realistic about my role in the haunt industry. I don’t buy pretty much anything at a haunt convention. Therefore, I do my best not to take up anyone’s time and I beg off taking printed materials from vendors. Giving those documents to me is a waste of money.
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