It was a dark and stormy night in St. Louis for the March 2018 haunting. Really it’s the annual tradeshow for the professionals that build the haunted houses people pay to go through during October. Think buckets of blood, severed limbs and Christmas? Technically it’s the TransWorld Halloween and Attractions show held the last part of March at the St. Louis Convention Center. TransWorld is a tradeshow and marketing juggernaut that brings together thousands of passionate haunters for an over-the-top event.
For Christmas people attending the Halloween show it’s a bit traumatic. Check out the picture… click on it to enlarge…specifically where the blue arrow is pointing and then look carefully at all the props. It’s the total opposite of the normal feel-good, family-friendly Christmas.
Walking the vendor hall aisles is more like a never-ending assault of your senses. Un-dead creatures lunging at you, rows of severed heads dripping with blood, sudden noises to make you jump, fog to distort your field of view and occasionally some truly bad odors where you’re nowhere close to the restrooms. What’s really weird about all of this? People appear to be having a great time.
Why would any sane Christmas decorator go to this trade show? A Halloween prop is much like a Christmas prop, at least when you peel away the grotesque covering. Sensors, lights, motors and computers are making everything work. Haunters are putting on a show, just like Christmas decorators.
The Halloween world tends to use very short sequences. Step on a sensor and a prop comes to life. After a few seconds, the show is over and everything returns to normal. A good example is a darkened room you wander through. There’s a person strapped to a bed. When you trip a sensor, strobes flash, the person violently shakes as if being electrocuted, smoke starts drifting through and all you hear is high voltage surging through the wires. After ten seconds the show is over and it’s time to move on. Simple, gory and extremely effective making for some really bad dreams. For the Christmas decorator, the fun can be knowing how all this stuff works.
What’s really odd is while walking the aisles suddenly you’ll see a Christmas display. It seems that some past Christmas Expo vendors are now attending this haunt show. Winterland was there with a weird centerpiece display of a retro Christmas tree surrounded by child-friendly Halloween characters (see the image). Christmas Done Bright, Action Lighting and Jolt Lighting were there showing off props with a Halloween theme. Universal Concepts had an incredible pixel Christmas tree with no hint of anything Halloween related. Most said they were there to snag leads with amusement parks and shopping centers while watching the never-ending hordes of Halloween people.
Where’s all this going? In 2019 this event is becoming a Halloween and Christmas show. Transworld is adding 30,000 square feet to the vendor hall dedicated to Christmas vendors.
How very interesting… to put 30,000 square feet into perspective, the Christmas Expo vendor hall averages around 20,000 square feet.
But what about the education and networking component of this potential new Christmas show? Your guess is as good as mine right now.
Where Christmas Expo really excels is it’s open to the public and the classes are aimed at all levels of decorators. Networking with others is easy because there are just a few hundred passionate people.
The Transworld show is targeted at the professionals with serious skin in the game.
The bottom line is Halloween and Christmas decorators are not that far apart. I’ve always thought of a Halloween display as a way to work all the kinks out of the technology while getting ready for a Christmas display.
Are you ready for this year?