Event Dates: 7/8/22 - 7/10/22 Reviewer: Lindsay
The haunted house industry, and Halloween community in general, is known for being more inclusive of those who may not be accepted by the rest of society. There's a place for all people here, regardless of age, gender, race, body type, orientation, and anything else that makes us who we are. So it should come as no surprise that when some cruel comments were made within the community regarding the Pulse nightclub tragedy in 2016, haunters were quick to take a stand, and through the collective efforts of haunter Paul Lanner and several haunt owners, Haunters Against Hate was formed. What began as a movement has now evolved into an official organization, and Paul has worked hard to spread its message, bringing HAH to events all over the country and creating a full line of merchandise for anyone wishing to support the cause (with proceeds going to benefit LGBTQ+ youth groups).
But HAH grew in a huge way in 2021: with the debut of its very own convention! Haunters Against Hate: The Event was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Louisville, KY at the end of July, and brought attendees from all over to celebrate everyone who makes our community special - and our shared love of all things spooky. The event was so well received that planning was immediately underway for next year's convention. For 2022, Haunters Against Hate: The Event 2 was moved to the Clarion Hotel in Lexington, and would prove to be even bigger than the first, offering more celebrities, vendors, and shows for everyone.
Attendees had several ticket options to choose from depending on how many days they wanted to go, and ample free parking was available on site. I went with the VIP weekend pass, which ran me $115 after fees. Not only did this provide early entry and access to all activities, but it also came with a goodie bag containing a lanyard, an event shirt, a big bar of Buff City Soap's "Zombie Repellent" (cute!), and a ticket for one "Goatmosa" (more on this in a bit). All attendees also received a complimentary HAH wristband, with colors representing the guest's comfort level. For example, rocking a green band meant you welcomed close contact, while wearing red let others know you preferred more space.
HAH: The Event had quite a lot to offer attendees, especially considering this was only the second year. A wide variety of vendors were spread throughout the convention floor, selling handmade art of all kinds, bath products, apparel, masks, leather goods, and much more. There were also tables for celebrities, organizations, other cons in the area - and of course, haunted attractions. (I was delighted that Woods of Terror made it out this year! Gotta go see them someday.) One of the highlights of my first day on the vendor floor was visiting Lucy Phurr, a talented makeup artist who was offering face painting to any guest willing to have a seat at her table. She helped me become my favorite monster of all time for the day: a werewolf! I was thrilled with how the makeup turned out, and would absolutely let her "transform" me again.
Looking to do more than shop and socialize? A complete schedule of daily activities was available to add to your experience, including haunt workshops, a drag show, Q&A with celebrities, and other fun stuff. There was also an awards ceremony to close out Saturday, which my friends and I attended - it made for an emotional, yet beautiful ending to the day. And on Sunday morning, I made use of my Goatmosa ticket, a perk of VIP admission and just $10 for anyone else wanting to participate. Guests who had one of these tickets could grab a mimosa from the hotel bar, and enjoy it with some furry friends from Louisville's Butterfly Valley Rescue & Sanctuary. All of them were sweethearts, especially Levi and Jebediah, their two lambs who just wanted all the love! The goats were adorable, but also a little mischievous... I had to shoo one away from my sandal laces, and tug my lanyard out of little Tippy's mouth more than once. With that said, this was a wonderful start to my day, and I'd love to see it come back in the future.
Another awesome thing about HAH is that wherever the event is held, a local haunt has always been happy to host attendees. In addition to having their own booth, Lexington legends Wicked World Scaregrounds opened up for two nights, bringing back their Nightmares of Hollywood event Friday, then hosting a party on Saturday that involved live music, a food truck, more drag performances, and a guided tour of their Nightmare Haunted House attraction (which is also where the Nightmares of Hollywood show was held). Both events were awesome, particularly the movie monster haunt, which I thought was well done. Outside of playing music from the films, there wasn't a whole lot they could've added to enhance the show's theme. But they had plenty of actors, and all of them looked great and did a good job of representing each movie character. Something else I liked is that they made an effort to place characters in suitable scenes within the house. For example, a certain clown- known for his famous fried chicken- heckled groups from behind the meat counter of the butcher's room. And I won't name the killer doll who was lurking around the toy shop, but I'll give you a hint: he was a Good Guy.
It also helped that Nightmare is a house rife with spots for actors to strike from. I remember remarking to a friend last season "you can't turn your back in here", and the same was true for this event. Monsters and murderers from the silver screen were everywhere, either waiting to pop out when you least expected them, or coming at you head-on the moment you entered their scene. The actor in the room following the introduction got me good the moment I stepped inside the haunt, and the aforementioned clown managed to sneak around and scare me from out of nowhere when I was well past his room. There were many other great scares and interactions, and I regret that I can't mention them all in this review. But if any of the WWSG family happen to read this and were working that night: you all killed it! Nightmares of Hollywood seemed to be a big success, and I hope it will pave the way for Wicked World to put on more shows over the off season.
(Okay, I do have one last shout out, and that goes to their resident slider clown. He was playing an entirely different clown on this night, and let me tell you, he was a real Terrifier. I think that was the first time I've ever seen a haunt actor scare an entire line of people at once.)
Paul created Haunters Against Hate: The Event with the intention of having a space where anyone could show up, have a good time, and- most importantly- feel completely safe being themselves. And for the second year in a row, he nailed it. The open, cheerful atmosphere could be felt everywhere, from the vendor floor, to the shows, to even just walking around the Clarion. I was reunited with many of my friends, enjoyed meeting haunters I'd admired for the first time, and had the pleasure of connecting with some new faces, too. On top of all that, I got to shop for cool stuff, day drink with cute animals, catch some scares and a lights on tour of one of my favorite haunts, and even turn into a monster myself! Another member of our team, Suzze, was also at the convention on Saturday, hanging out and live streaming. She seemed to be having a good time, and I was really happy she got to experience it.
Anyone who knows me well in the haunt community has heard me say, more than once, that all of the different people you meet are the best thing about it. Haunters Against Hate: The Event 2 was a much needed celebration of love and diversity - with a spooky twist. This will 100% become an annual event for me, and if you haven't been lucky enough to attend yet, please consider putting it on your list for next year.