Two Spooky and Cool Conventions to Hit This Summer

Featured Travel

The past two years have given many of us a financial beating, and budgeting things like travel and attending costly events like comic cons or music and art festivals is getting harder and harder.

I have attended several cons in my time, so I am well-versed in what is good, bad, and out-of-control expensive about some of them. I have also honed what I really love about them from immersive experiences to discovering new artists and writers.

With everything from time and money needing juggling, I created three criteria for choosing pop culture and fan events:

  • The majority of the content needs to be something I really, really enjoy. I’m not just spending my money because I want to see one particular thing or artist. To poorly paraphrase Deadpool, will the event’s “crazy match my crazy?”
  • If I had to attend this event, hypothetically, without my spouse or kids (teenagers), would I still enjoy myself? Sad reality of a busy world, but I can’t force my family to do everything together.
  • Does it look like it will have something appealing to me going on throughout the event? Can I get the most out of my time?

Well, I have actually found two pretty cool things happening at the beginning and end of July that look pretty promising.

Joe Bob’s Drive-In Jamboree

I grew up in West Texas, just on the New Mexico border, and drive-In movies were part of my childhood. Not so much for kids today, who have to watch them either in the theatre or at home. Where’s the fun in that?

Movies were most fun with the sound coming from those tinny speakers, as we used to back the truck up towards the screen and set up lawn chairs in the bed. When it was $10 a carload, half the neighborhood went in our vehicle. I cannot tell you how much I miss that, including the night we kids got to go see the original The Poseidon Adventure in our jammies. I was three, and I remember that!

When the drive-ins begin disappearing in my teen years—my hometown drive-in became no longer suitable for “family viewing” by this time—I discovered a fellow Texan’s column in our newspaper’s weekend entertainment supplement. I have been a Joe Bob Briggs admirer ever since.

Last year, he hosted his first drive-In weekend event, which was such a huge success they are doing it again this year with a fan convention with several drive-in worthy celebrity guests. The three-night event will feature a Friday night “Halloween III Throwdown” event with a 40th-anniversary cast reunion and screening, coordinated by his co-host Darcy the Mail Girl. Saturday is a live presentation of his Last Drive-In with Joe-Bob Briggs show, a double feature, and a fan-made film showcase for the World Drive-In Movie Festival on Sunday.

Here’s Joe Bob announcing the event in a perfectly suitable location, a Cracker Barrel porch next to the giant checkerboard.

The 2nd-Annual Joe Bob’s Drive-in Jamboree is July 8-10 at the Malco Summer Drive-In in Memphis, Tenn. Convention weekend passes start at $60; General Admission Drive-In daily passes are $50 to $75 depending on the night.

Midsummer Scream

This is one I have wanted to attend since I first learn about it in 2016. Late July and early August are when I really start getting that itch for all things fall and Halloween. I love the décor, I love the costumes, and l love the potential for something new to see every weekend in September in October. This type of event is ideal for shaking off those “hot summer cobwebs” in anticipation of the spooky season.

The event is the world’s largest horror and Halloween convention that highlights the diverse SoCal haunt and horror community. There are more than 350 exhibitors from artists to home haunt decorations, as well as a Hall of Shadows mini-haunts and other immersive attractions, and live performances.

When I hit a con, I usually head straight for the “Artist Alley,” often hidden in the back. This is where they now store the creators who gave birth to the idea of the comic or pop culture con in the first place. From what I have seen, Midsummer Scream really lets the artists haunt the floors, front and center.

The expo area and the show floor are often the most appealing thing to me at these types of events, and I rarely bother myself with sitting in on a panel. However, Midsummer Scream has put together a couple of pretty interesting ones. Particularly an “Original Monster Kids” panel with children and grandchildren of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr, and Lon Chaney Sr. This will be moderated by vintage horror collector and Metallica lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett. Yeah, that one has my interest.

The Hall of Shadows is where the real immersive fun happens, with small individual haunt teams offering walkthroughs with themes like”The Witching Auer,” “The Decayed Brigade,” and “Bones Gulch.”

Here’s a peek at YouTube darling Justin Scarred of Randomland Adventures checking out the 2019 Midsummer Scream. Scarred, by the way, is one of the honored guests for this year’s event.

The event’s marketing this year has been fantastic and hearkens back to the mid-century style of vintage Halloween that brings me back to my childhood of wearing a costume made by my mom (or myself) and having free-range access to meet up with friends before charging out in the neighborhood.

Midsummer Scream 2022 takes place July 29-31 at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, Ca. Weekend General admission passes start at $63 (up to 2 kids 10 and younger admitted free with each adult admission).

As a parent of rapidly growing kids (one hits 20 this month and the other one 13 this summer), I’m at a time where I’m looking down the double barrel of an empty household. I still want to be part of that fun, crazy world of runaway creativity and a celebration of imagination that comes with fan-centric events.

If I need to be more selective, I need to come to terms with what I really love doing, and these two events have all the spooky, outrageous, DIY, old school, under-the-stars, artist/creator-focused fun I would want packed into my summer.

Hope everyone out there looking for adventure near home or “down the road a ways” finds something that is the perfect fit for their sensibilities. One that has art, movies, or music that inspires them, people they can share their weird passions with, and scores of activities they can experience.

I hope it is something that feels like it was created especially with you in mind. As for me, these July happenings will do me just fine, as they look colorful, creative, and wonderfully weird.

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