Today Midsummer Scream made the announcement that they are canceling their main event for 2020. Originally scheduled to run from July 31 to Aug 2, the Halloween and Horror Convention was to be held at the Long Beach Convention Center. The announcement comes two days after California saw it’s second-biggest spike in reported cases and Los Angeles County saw its largest spike in fatalities from the oddly capricious respiratory disease, Covid-19. Ticket holders to the event are being given the option of a full refund or carrying their admission over to 2021.
While it had to be a painful decision, it was ultimately the right thing to do. These types of events take over a year of planning with the 6 months leading up to the event being the most accelerated. When California Governor, Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19th, the prospects of having the event began to slowly diminish. Event producers David Markland, Claire Dunlap, Rick West, and Gary Baker remained hopeful that the event might dodge any part of the “curve”. Alas, it is not to be.
Co-founder and Creative Director of Midsummer Scream, Rick West said, “This is the single hardest decision our team has ever had to make, and we have been faced with some pretty big challenges since creating the show in 2016. We have agonized over the past month or more, trying to work through various scenarios that would satisfy social distancing guidelines and at the same time, create the same fun atmosphere and experience that our guests have come to expect and love from us over the years. Sadly, as weeks have turned into months, and we don’t have a clear answer yet of when large-scale events such as ours can resume, the reality was becoming clear that we had a really big problem on our hands. There isn’t one aspect of our show that isn’t a logistical mess when it comes to social distancing and recommended guidelines, from our 2,000-seat Main Stage ballroom to people queueing for all of the haunted attractions in the Hall of Shadows, to the flow of thousands of guests at a time through our huge show floor; it is all problematic, and as hard as we tried – and believe me, it’s been agonizing the past several weeks – we realized that the scaled-back show that we’d end up with was so different than what we normally do, that it wouldn’t even be Midsummer Scream anymore. For the past five years, we have served this community the best we know-how. At this point in time, it has become apparent that as painful as it is for all involved, the best way to serve our community this summer is to keep everyone as safe and sound as humanly possible while shifting our focus to smaller events and gatherings we hopefully can host throughout the latter part of the year once it’s been deemed safe by our state and local officials. Of course, there’s always next year; July 2021 will come sooner than we know it, and Midsummer Scream and this community will return to Long Beach with a vengeance. It will be our 5th Anniversary, and we promise, one hell of a homecoming party for everyone.”
David Markland, Co-founder and Executive Director of Midsummer Scream stated, “Regardless of the cancellation, Midsummer Scream’s mission remains the same: to promote and support the Halloween community and haunted attractions. If anything, we’re more committed to our purpose than ever before. We will use our social media channels, mailing list, and other communication tools to promote our vendors and help share news of upcoming attractions and events, and as soon as conditions allow we’ll look at ways to bring people together.”
In full disclosure, HorrorBuzz too spent time in creating some of the horror magic as the with Norman Gidney, owner of HorrorBuzz as an active member of the production team along with several from the site helping in producing the two-day film festival, The Screaming Room.
For many in California, Midsummer Scream marked the unofficial beginning of the Halloween season. Last year a reported 30,000 attended the two-day event that featured the main stage, second stages, a show floor, and The Hall of Shadows where guests could experience previews of some of southern California’s haunted attractions. Midsummer was the starter pistol that kicked things into high gear. So if there is no start, does that mean that the Halloween season is doomed? No, not necessarily.
About this time, we would generally begin hearing announcements from the area’s biggest haunts. So far, not a single peep. In fact, the venues that need the most lead time including Knott’s, Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the Disneyland Resort have all been tightly locked up in the interest of public health and safety. The Queen Mary Hotel remains open, but that has little to do with major events at the venue. The future is, unfortunately, as nebulous as the thick fog that we all crave to enter once again. It doesn’t bode all that well, but there are glimmers of hope.
In a prepared statement, Midsummer Scream mentioned plans for a number of smaller events once restrictions are eased a bit. Show producers for Midsummer are a clever bunch who understand that Halloween isn’t a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. They don’t seem to be interested in letting anyone down, much less the haunt community.
But what do WE do? As fans of Halloween, it being OUR Holiday, what course of action do fans of the macabre take? To begin with, stay safe. The fastest way that we are going to get through this is by listening to recommendations and maintaining a safe physical distance from anyone outside the home. Yes, we in California have been doing that since March so most of us have that down. We are champion indoorsman. But make no mistake, there is no disease that can take Halloween away. Worst case scenario we would have to celebrate it in our own homes, but that seems unlikely.
Be honest with yourselves for a moment. Speaking purely as a fellow fan of Halloween, don’t we already make Halloween a happen every day somehow? Yes, this might sound trite but look. This is where we are at. Will it get more awful than this? Not likely. The strong possibility is that restrictions will be lifted long before Halloween. Okay, so what does THAT mean?
Right now, events with 250 or more people are prohibited in California. If the situation abates slightly, we could foreseeably be leaning on Home Haunters to give us our fix. The lines will be horrid and they may stretch for miles with 6-foot distancing in place, we may have to wear a mask when entering, we may have to sanitize our hands upon leaving, but I think we’d be okay with that. Currently, it’s the bigger venues, the larger haunts, that need the most lead time and who would be in the most danger of making a painful announcement. Let’s be clear. Not one single venue has announced any sort of closure or cancellation. So, react to that news when it happens, if it does.
So, bringing it back to Midsummer Scream, they aren’t going anywhere. There may soon be some special surprises coming our way from the producing team, so rest assured, all is not lost. Furthermore, Halloween is not canceled. Prepare for the reality that it will be a very different haunt season, but it can’t be done away with. Not this year, not ever. We need to stay the course, stay safe, and stay scary. We are the community of haunters, horror makers, and fans. We’ve seen Jason kill someone by squeezing their head until an eyeball shot out of his skull. We’ve been chased by ravenous monsters through the darkness. We run towards the screams when others run away.
Stay calm, stay safe, stay hopeful. We got this.