Back in the summer of 2019, I attended Midsummer Scream for the first time. It was such a blast and I couldn’t wait to go the following year. Then, as we all know, the pandemic hit. While Midsummer Scream has had events during that time, this year was the first time I felt comfortable enough to be at a convention surrounded by huge crowds. I’m happy to report that Midsummer Scream 2022 did not disappoint.
Obviously one of the biggest draws for the convention is the huge main showroom floor. This massive convention area houses vendors from across the country selling goodies to delight Halloween and horror fans. I’m sure I’m not the only one who spent more than they intended because there were just so many wonderful artists, small businesses, and other oddities to choose from.
Another great aspect of the convention floor at Midsummer Scream is that this is where fans get to meet the celebrity guests. For the most part the lines are never too long, depending on the celebrity, so you often get to spend a few minutes chatting with the person while they sign something for you and/or get a picture taken with them. While there were a ton of great guests this year, for me the highlight was getting to meet Omri Katz and Vinessa Shaw of Hocus Pocus fame.
Through a darkened doorway next to the convention floor, you can enter the Hall of Shadows. After you pass by some wonderful life-size dioramas modeled after films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Gremlins, Trick ‘r Treat, and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, you arrive at the scare floor. This is where those who love to be scared can walk through shortened samples of some of the hottest Halloween Haunts. There were two highlights in this area for me. First was the Casa Calaveras art exhibit walk-through. This wasn’t a scary attraction by any means, but it was filled with gorgeous, blacklight reactive Dia de los Muertos art. It was difficult not to linger and gaze at the gorgeous art, but I didn’t want to hold up the line of people waiting to enter! While I didn’t get a chance to walk through all the haunted attractions, one was a clear standout, not only because of its sheer size, but also because it scared me out of my skin (to be fair, I’m a wimp when it comes to haunted attractions so take that with a grain of salt)! That honor goes to Fear Farm with their massive, gorgeous, jungle-themed haunted maze. Even with it being a shortened attraction, the Fear Farm team clearly put a lot of work into making it a memorable experience for Midsummer Scream attendees. Everything from the outer façade to the scare actor makeup to the well though-out scares was wonderful. It is important to note that some of these mazes might be too scary for younger attendees and/or the faint of heart and there are scare actors roaming the entire Hall of Shadows area, so some might want to avoid this area altogether.
If you venture out of the showroom floor and up the stairs, you will find the Second Stage. This is the second-largest space for panels and performances. I was lucky enough to see Night of the Living Drag, hosted by horror drag icon Peaches Christ, with fantastic spooky-themed drag and burlesque performances. This was my first drag show and it blew me away!
Up another flight of stairs (or an escalator) to the top floor leads to many other exciting rooms. Of course there is the Main Stage which is a massive space housing many of the panels bringing in the largest crowds. I was lucky enough to see Fangoria’s “Making Horror Fun Again” panel, which was hosted by Nay Bever (consulting producer on Queer for Fear) with beloved horror film writers Kevin Williamson (Scream), Bryan Fuller (Hannibal), and Michael Kennedy (Freaky). Not only was this panel absolutely phenomenal and one of the highlights of the entire convention for me, but the way the stage was setup was also a sight to behold.
The top floor is also where one can find the Black Cat Lounge, filled with adoptable cats to interact with. While I’ve never actually visited the room, imagine what a fun story it would be to tell your friends you adopted a new fur baby at Midsummer Scream. Just a short walk past the Black Cat Lounge is the Podcast Lounge. This space is where come of your favorite horror podcasts do live and in-person recordings, often with special celebrity guests. If you plan on attending one of these, be sure to arrive before the start time. Once the podcast recording starts, the doors are locked so people don’t come barging in and interrupt the recording.
Even further down the hall is the Screaming Room. This is a great space to view different categories of short films selected to screen at Midsummer Scream. While I didn’t attend any of the shorts this year, I was able to attend a special advance screenings of the WNUF Halloween Sequel with filmmakers Chris LaMartina and co-producer/star Melissa LaMartina in attendance for a Q&A after the screening. Not only was the film a delightful 90’s Halloween time warp, but it was great to learn more about the film directly from the LaMartinas.
While I had so much fun all three days at Midsummer Scream, there are some downsides I think it’s important to mention as well as some tips for those planning to attend in 2023. First, I strongly recommend getting a Gold Bat pass if you’re financially able to. Not only do you get early entrance on Saturday and Sunday, but you also get to be in a significantly shorter line to enter. Whether you’re able to get a Gold Bat pass or one of the regular passes, be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and/or something to keep you shaded like an umbrella. Especially for the general admission line, you will have a very long wait standing in line to get through security to enter the building and there is virtually no shade while you wait on those hot summer days. Also, I highly encourage people to bring drinks and snacks. There is some food inside the convention center, but the lines tend to be very long. You can always exit the building to try one of the many food trucks parked outside, but depending on the time of day you might have a long wait to go back through security in order to re-enter.
Now, with the Gold Bat pass you’re also supposed to be able to be in a separate line for the various panels, but the organization wasn’t that great this year. When I was waiting in line to enter Night of the Living Drag there was a lot of confusion about which line was Gold Bat and which was general admissions and there wasn’t any staff there to assist until closer to the doors opening. Either way, if you plan on attending any panels or special events, plan on getting in line fairly early to ensure you get a good seat.
I would also recommend paying attention to other events happening at the same time as the ones you want to attend. I had planned on going to an event in the Podcast Lounge, but the entire upstairs was filled with people waiting in line for an event taking place at around the same time on the Main Stage. It was so crowded with people waiting that not only was the entire upstairs like an oven, but it also made it almost impossible to walk down the hallway to get to the other rooms because staff where not ensuring there was a clear walkway.
Probably my single biggest note for Midsummer Scream is that there isn’t any one place to find all the information about the event. There is the website, the app, and you can get a physical map once there. While these individually offer helpful information, I believe it would be nice if there was one place where attendees could find everything including a map of all the event spaces on all floors, a list of vendors and their booth numbers, and an events schedule. Because there wasn’t a place where all of this was listed, it was easy to miss certain things. For example, I didn’t learn until after the event that there was a little Halloween museum at Midsummer Scream. Whether it be on the website or the app, having a one-stop-shop where attendees can view all the important information about Midsummer Scream would greatly improve the experience.
Overall, Midsummer Scream 2022 was a scream. It delivered great vendors, creepy haunted attractions, wonderful panels and shows, and plenty of opportunities for celebrity interaction. On a more personal note, it was a great chance to spend time with old and new friends. Despite the hiccups, that honestly most large conventions have in some form or another, it’s still a delightful experience. Midsummer Scream is probably the most comprehensive Halloween and horror convention in the country with a little something for everyone. I’m already looking forward to (hopefully) attending in 2023.