Convention Report: National Halloween Convention, May 2011
The National Halloween Convention never fails to entertain convention attendees. This convention functions as a trade show–and it’s open to the public. Such a dynamic allows for a variety of vendors. Attendees can shop for discount Halloween decorations to professionally created haunt props costing thousands. The show also features talent, local groups, contests, and a popular costume ball.
This was my second year attending the convention as a vendor. The National Halloween Convention takes place annually at the Valley Forge Convention Center (Scanticon) in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. The location provides several advantages to convention attendees.
In addition to the concessions available on the show floor, guests have multiple food options within the hotel or a ten minute drive. It’s also usually pretty easy to get a room nearby since there are several hotels connected to the convention center.
This convention took place on the lower level. This year’s show seemed more interactive and expansive than last year’s–something convention-goers describe as a positive theme. Vendors and attendees ranged from the professional to the grotesque, making people-watching alone well worth the entry fee (weekend-long show floor pass: $25).
Halloween Con’s Thursday is devoted to vendor set up. Many of the vendors have extensive props, tables, and merchandise. While Saturday morning drew a large crowd, the rest of the show seemed light on numbers. Sunday’s low turnout was likely due in part to Mother’s Day occurring on the same date. While many convention organizers consider low turnout a problem, this likely isn’t as big of a problem at the Halloween Convention–haunt owners are there to find the latest in haunt effects and technology and often spend large amounts on these items.
Due to lower turnout, prime venue space, and good planning and organization, there was plenty of room to walk around. On Sunday, I felt comfortable enough to wear an angel costume with small wings and did not have any mishaps. There was also a rather tall Grim Reaper and a tall man on werewolf stilts–neither seemed to have a problem navigating the space.
None of the vendors seemed cramped at this convention, either. There was plenty of space for vendor items and for curious customers.
The food vendors at the convention offered very reasonable prices. I’m used to overpriced convention food, but here I found a generous portion of $4 nachos (that didn’t even make me sick) and a $1 hot tea. Since I had budgeted more money for food, I felt inclined to spend a bit more with vendors selling products.
The National Halloween Convention features “Halloween University” classes. Classes ranged from $0-$50 with most classes costing $20. (The higher-priced classes include lessons requiring materials.) As Seventh Kingdom IGE Marketing Director, I took the guerrilla marketing class led by Kim of Kim’s Krypt. Kim offered personal attention and suggestions to each class member. This was especially helpful to the class as we ran different events.
I strongly recommend the classes. If you own a haunt, your admittance fee and classes can count as business expenses. The National Halloween Convention offers easy online ordering which makes it easy to file away a receipt for tax purposes.
I’ve been to more than ten different conventions, and there’s one thing that stands out about this one: organization. Class and event tickets are personalized with your name. Staff are visible and marked as staff with shirts; maps, signage, and hotel staff are also present to help with directions. Everything is clearly labeled and marked and the seasoned staff members are knowledgeable. Most of the vendors have been here previously and are also happy to help attendees.
Vendors are another strength at this convention. The variety in price range draws in experienced haunt owners and those just starting out. Furthermore, there’s a great deal available for those not involved in the haunt industry.
I scored a $20 leather bag for use LARPing and some “True Blood” type vampire teeth. I found more vendors with reasonable pricing here than I have at horror conventions. Vendors who craft items on site are usually willing to let attendees watch their processes, so it’s also a learning experience.
As a frequent convention vendor, I’m used to receiving questions and feedback about my game and the convention. Though foot traffic was light at this convention, I still experienced a high level of networking with fans and vendors. I look forward to returning to The National Halloween Convention in future years.
Disclosure: Tara Clapper is affiliated with Fright Times, a Halloween and haunt industry magazine that sponsored events at the 2011 convention.