Due to the pandemic, 2020 saw the cancellation of many conventions, events, and haunted attractions. Not looking like we were quite out of the woods yet this year, Midsummer Scream announced that their main convention held in Long Beach would be postponed until 2022. Then, fairly recently (as things started opening back up), they announced that they would host another Halloween/horror convention called Awaken the Spirits! – this time at the Pasadena Convention Center. Midsummer Scream and its now defunct progenitor event used to utilize the Pasadena Convention Center and, personally, I love the location. It may be a little smaller in terms of square footage, but its ease of parking, surrounding food options, and proximity to several hotels make it an “easy breezy” experience for convention-goers. We stayed at a nearby hotel and simply walked across the street to the event each morning, making it nearly effortless and stress-free.
However, a big question remained: Could Midsummer Scream pull together a convention in ONLY a month and a half? I’m happy to say that they not only accomplished this feat but they also accomplished it with a master stroke. Awaken the Spirits! was an absolute blast. The show floor had plenty of exhibitors and vendors hosting a variety of wares for browsing and purchase. Vendors like Temecula Terror advertising their new haunt in Temecula and Nightmare Toys which had a large lineup of NECA and Trick or Treat Studios products for sale. The LA Haunted Hayride brought out an amazing photo op which thrilled guests and saw no shortage of people taking selfies in front of it. One of my favorite haunted houses, Reign of Terror (based in Thousand Oaks) brought out a hears and two huge skeletons to advertise their upcoming haunt. Even spooky musical duo The Dos Feratu were in attendance, playing their creepy tunes throughout the convention halls.
Another thing I have been missing was getting to see all the amazing costumes that people attending these events can put together. During our visit to the Awaken the Spirits! convention floor, we were delighted to see a huge amount of cosplayer turn out. There were people dressed up like monsters of all kinds – with a variety of complexity levels and degree of transformation. Some opted for more “conservative” costume pieces while others donned prosthetic makeup effects and their own horror soundtracks. There were creatures walking on stilts for added height and scare factor as well as others opting for more comedy-based costumes, meant to garner a chuckle instead of a scream. Speaking of costuming and makeup, there were several vendors selling amazing latex and silcone masks and the booth of FX Faces was even selling a huge number of foam latex prosthetics. They even had a makeup artist on-hand applying them to their scare actors.
The lineup of panels did not disappoint either – the only big no-show being Knott’s Scary Farm (they’ve opted to do all their reveals via social media this year). However, all the other big players in the Southern California haunted attraction world showed up and brought something fun to present. Whether it was 13th Floor Entertainment Group Creative Director Jon Cooke revealing that the LA Haunted Hayride would be based in Griffith Park this year and feature several new Midnight Falls locations for guests to explore or Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Director John Murdy spilling the details about their upcoming “The Bride of Frankenstein Lives” maze and making a haunted house for his kids last year – each panel was interesting and entertaining. I especially enjoyed the two smaller-scale panels featuring a variety of home haunts – going to those homegrown haunts is a yearly tradition for me. It brings me such joy to see the creativity and improvisation that home haunters bring to the table. Also, a special shout out needs to be given to the set designers of this event – stages looked beautiful and featured projection and lighting effects that simply dazzled.
The only thing missing from Awaken the Spirits! was Midsummer Scream’s famous Hall of Shadows – an area of the convention in which various haunted attractions erect small-scale tasts of what guests can expect to see during the spooky season. However, this was an intentional move by the Midsummer Scream team as it simply wasn’t right or practical to give the various haunts such a small amount of time to put together walkthrough attractions. The only exception to this was Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights which brought out a very small “boo box” walkthrough in anticipating of their upcoming “The Curse of Pandora’s Box” maze. As a side note, it was revealed at the event that Midsummer Scream’s next convention, Season’s Screamings, will feature a Hall of Shadows-like area called the “Hall of Yuletide Spirits”.
During our time outside the convention, we were able to get some great food from the restaurants at the Paseo Colorado Shopping Center, giving us time to regroup and reflect on what we just experienced at the event, before jumping right back into the fray for more spooky fun. Pasadena Police were on-hand with not only making sure the convention center area was safe but, also, assisting with traffic direction to parking areas when needed.
Overall, Midsummer Scream’s Awaken the Spirits! has definitely awakened the Halloween spirit. Now, the spooky season is looking bright and hopeful and I’m already starting to pull out the Halloween boxes from the garage in order to start planning my own home’s decor for the Fall. Thanks to the entire Midsummer Scream team for the hard work in bringing the event to life and we can’t wait to check out Season’s Screamings come December!