Rex B. Hamilton reports on the 2009 Midwest Haunters Convention
June 11, 2009
Greetings, Fellow Haunters:
I was in Columbus, the capital of our fair state, from Thursday through Sunday this past weekend for the 2009 edition of the Midwest Haunters Convention. The show took place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center at 400 North High Street in exhibition hall C. From what I’ve been told, the 2010 show will also take place in the exact, same location.
Allow me to push out a few bullet points:
1. To my eye, this year’s MHC introduced a fair number of new vendors to the haunting public.
2. I did not attend the grand Costume Ball on Saturday night, but my spies tell me that it was a well-received affair.
3. The Friday night party was held at a large bar called the Frog Bear and Wild Boar, just a block away from the hotel/convention center.
When I arrived at the official hotel’s bar (The Columbus Hyatt Regency) on Thursday evening, I downed a couple of ales with the handful of haunters happily clustered around one another. We howled and screamed at one another for a while and then (wisely) decided to call it an early night because we knew the balance of the weekend would be filled with late nights and early mornings.
On Friday morning I arrived more than an hour before the official opening time of 10 AM. There were several things I learned that morning:
1. Vendors were allowed into the convention hall around 9 AM, a full hour earlier than what had been advertised
2. The overall pace of vendors erecting their booths was quite different and much more subdued than last year. In 2009, vendors took their sweet old time putting things together. Last year there was a mad rush of carts and dollies full of stuff being wheeled in as fast as possible. I confess that I did next to nothing to assist the vendors this year in transporting their wares into the exhibition hall.
3. Attendees in 2009 had a much shorter walk from the hotel to the convention hall.
The “Welcome Reception” was held from 4 until nearly 7:30 PM on Friday in a couple of meeting rooms in the hotel’s upper level. There was some food, a cash bar and a long line of attendees who registered and received their convention credentials. Around 7 PM, the folding door was closed between these two rooms and the haunted wedding that featured Amy and Anthony took place in front of a small group of enthusiasts. The bridal party sported many of the trappings of Insane Clown Posse, their heroes.
There is a short piece in the June 4, 2009 edition of “The Other Paper”out of Columbus that carries the title “Band fans plan nuptials at spooky convention.” In the paper’s print edition, the blurb appears on page 17. Their site is www.theotherpaper.com.
Right afterwards, we hurried a block down Nationwide Boulevard to the Frog Bear and Wild Board bar. (www.frogbearbar.com) It is one of the largest bars I’ve encountered. It has a nice outside patio with its own disk jockey. Inside there were several large sections, stuffed with people. We Scab 5 monsters judged an acting competition of five contestants and then presented awards to the winners. Horror-movie actor Chuck Williams was the master of ceremonies and the driving force that evening. Chuck also MCed a haunted Scareoke contest and a few other events. “The Other Paper” billed the night as the “Midsummer Monster Bash.”
Saturday is the big day every year at MHC. I popped in before 8 AM and assumed my duties as the convention’s official greeter. Precisely at 9 AM, I opened the exhibition hall’s doors and let in a stream of attendees eager to get inside. I had the pleasure of saying “Good Morning” to plenty of people until the clock approached Noon.
A few more bullet points:
1. The Columbus weather could not have been any better. The skies were blue and sunny all weekend and temperatures never rose higher than the low 80s.
2. There was a Zombie Walk in Columbus in the waning afternoon hours, but we saw it from a distance after the convention had shut for the day. If I were the boss of the Zombie Walk, I would find a way to have my 200 or so participants convene and get made up somewhere on the floor of MHC in the early afternoon. The combined publicity of the two events working together, I think, would be a hit.
3. This year’s convention was videotaped in detail by a television production company called PostTime Productions (www.posttimevideo.com) out of Lexington, Kentucky. They had 3-4 cameras rolling, as well as a sound boom man, during all their interviews. The company hopes to produce a reality television series that spotlights weird, unusual conventions in America. Their show about the 2009 Midwest Haunters Convention will be the pilot episode that they will attempt to sell to a TV network.
I sweet-talked the video crew into interviewing me, standing right in front of the doors to the exhibition hall shortly after they opened at 9 AM. It was one of the most pleasant, professional stand-ups I’ve ever done. The on-air host of the show, the guy who interviewed me, is a real pro. I regret that I don’t have his name right now, but I think his low-key style will sell the show.
As soon as my interview was over, I urged the crew to walk the 10 yards over to the show’s registration booth and interview Ben Armstrong and his son Max who were pinning on their badges as I spoke. Ben and his business partner Billy Messina (who also came to MHC) are the proprietors of Netherworld in Atlanta and have come to Ohio every year for this convention. Their steady support has meant a lot to us Ohioans.
From Noon until around 12:45 PM, Trey Cottle ran the IAHA Annual Auction from the elevated stage just inside the exhibition hall. Trey is a newly-elected director of the Association, and a professional auctioneer from Montrose, Georgia. It showed.
Ghostly Manor, a haunted attraction in Sandusky, Ohio, won my services for the weekend of Friday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31 for a donation of $500. Back in 2002, I worked an evening at Ghostly Manor - so I have an idea of what to expect this Fall. The haunt’s owners, Bill and Jayme Criscione, tell me that much has changed for the better since then. Ghostly Manor is one of the few haunts in the US that is open during throughout the summer season.
The late-afternoon Monster Make-up War provided some surprises.
1. In the bag of secret make-up ingredients was a rainbow-colored fright wig.
2. In the bag of secret make-up ingredients was a foam-rubber, red-colored clown nose. (Do you detect a pattern here?)
3. For the first time, a model applied his own make-up. The other two members of his team stood close by like statues and held up large mirrors for the model’s visual benefit.
Sunday at MHC began at 10:00 AM (instead of 9) in order to give folks a chance to sleep in a bit. That morning, the seminar starting time of 10 AM was pushed back a half-hour to give everyone a touch more time to wake up.
I spent a few hours yakking it up with those on the convention floor that morning and then quietly walked out the door and drove home to Cleveland. You might have heard by now that next year’s MHC and the 2010 Great Lakes Fright Fest will both happen on the same weekend in early June. In a perfect world I would attend both shows. Kkrazy Kkaren, the producer of GLFF, already knows that I will dearly miss her and her relaxing haunted camp-out next Spring.
When economic times are tough, the entertainment business seems to thrive. This October season should be no exception. As long as we put on good shows and market them well, the chances are that we should all be fine in 2009.
Very truly yours,
Rex B. Hamilton
13939 Clifton Boulevard
Lakewood, Ohio 44107-1462
“If you aren’t a haunted house actor, then you aren’t shit.” Rex B. Hamilton
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