Summer is in its final month, school will be starting soon for many (it already has for us), and big summer haunting events have been happening from coast to coast starting the last weekend of July.
Unfortunately for my family, we live nowhere near most of them. The massive Midsummer Scream Horror Convention was a good many miles away in California, and the well-publicized opening of Spirit Halloween’s big flagship store was all the way across the country on in New Jersey.
We could have just watched a few YouTube videos or checked out some Instagram pics of people getting to enjoy these events, which is fine, but dang it, we wanted in on the summer haunt trend. It was my youngest daughter’s last weekend before she headed back to school, and we wanted to do something different. So, we found a little local horror market that very weekend at a perfect location: a homemade drive-in theatre at a haunted restaurant.
A local art market organizer, Kaleidoscope Art Market, announced a pair of events bookending the famously “haunted” Italian speakeasy restaurant, Monteleone’s. In one location was the Haunted Carnival Daze art market just across the street at the vintage creepy, circus-themed Wrap & Roll Café, a place so popular it sells out of food on a regular basis. There were vendor booths, music, and a “scary clown cosplay” event.
On the other side of the restaurant was a “vintage movie night” at the Blue Moon Drive-In, a new installation next to the main restaurant. It was family-friendly, the weather was not too warm that evening, and the best part about it was… it was free to attend!
We waited until my oldest got home from work, and headed off to our own little midsummer screaming.
We have been to Monteleone’s before, and I even talked about the restaurant’s creation and our own “haunted” experience here on GeekMom in the past. That was well before the new drive-in addition was put in.
The drive-in was created in the spring of 2021 in the small outdoor space and periodically shows vintage horror and science fiction movies, as a good drive-in should. They had been hosting some ticketed movie events where the cost would buy you a meal with the show. Sounded cool, but a bit expensive for all four of us. Probably great for a date night, though.
Taking advantage of seeing what the drive-in was about on a free night made it the ideal time to see what was up.
Of course, when you head to a free event a couple of hours after the start, you don’t expect it to compare to the big events. We got there just a few minutes too late for the Wrap & Roll food but picked up a couple of drinks at the cool little concession stand in the drive-in area. Like the main restaurant and café, the drive-in and its concession were filled with cool murals of classic monsters and other movie icons, custom-built “set pieces” (the owner of Monteleone’s once worked for Universal), and a great retro atmosphere.
The guy who worked there was also extremely friendly and said we should stop by early, on a non-movie event day, to make sure we try the Wrap & Roll fare before it runs out.
“And, for the love of God,” he emphasized, “try the chile burger.”
Since that was the most emphatic I have ever heard anyone be about a burger, I am going to stop by again and give it a go.
As with any free artisan market, you aren’t getting away without spending some money. We picked up some cool custom stickers, pins, handmade notebooks, and even some 3D-printed items because the whole purpose of the market is the let non-commercial local arts and crafts shine.
The market spread from the café area all the way to the drive-in area, with artists set up along the seating area. The setup of a little drive-In (which was actually a walk-in) was created to look like a drive-in of the past. Benches were built to look like the backs of classic cars and vintage drive-in speakers were set up along the area. This was an exceptionally clever way to bring a more authentic look to everything.
The one problem with the screen itself, which I was guessing was maybe a little less than half the size of an actual drive-in screen, as the surface was made with the same type of metal building panels as the front. This was a little distracting, but I’m hoping over time they’ll add a flat screen surface.
Still, getting to enjoy a little of the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein on an outdoor screen with people in creepy clown outfits wandering around gave us a taste of the larger events without the travel, cost, or crowd.
We may not get the biggest of events in our area, but we have creative people. Those who come up with placing the right event in the right setting, those who create settings completely unique to our community, and those artisans who come to fill it with their own designs.
I do plan on heading out to Midsummer Scream someday, but in the meantime, being able to support our local arts community was certainly a treat.