The first Pop, Rock ‘N Horror Convention was held over the weekend of May 31 to June 2, 2019, bringing together popular horror actors and fans. The three-day convention was spread throughout a few ballrooms of the Eisenhower Hotel & Conference Center in Gettysburg, PA.
Considering it was a first year convention, Pop, Rock ‘N Horror put together an impressive list of guests. There were two major reunions, featuring Return of the Living Dead stars Linnea Quigley, Thom Matthews, Beverly Randolph, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., and Allan Trautman; as well as Cugo director Lewis Teague and stars Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, and Daniel Hugh-Kelly. I was personally very excited to chat with Quigley, who wrote the foreword and was interviewed for The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Horror.
The guest list also included David Howard Thornton and Damien Leone (Terrifier), Tyler Mane (Rob Zombie’s Halloween), Amelia Kinkade (Night of the Demons), Felissa Rose and Katherine Kamhi (Sleepaway Camp), Quinn Lord (Trick ‘r Treat), Kevin Van Hentenryck (Basket Case), Eric Freeman and Robert Brian-Wilson (Silent Night Deadly Night series), Nathan Baesel and Angela Goethals (Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon), Share Ross and Roxy Petrucci (Vixen band), Brad Loree (Halloween Resurrection), Jim Krut (Dawn of the Dead), The Undead (former Misfits guitarist), Richard Band (composer), and Ghost Jason (Never Hike Alone).
The convention was mainly held in two large ballrooms where vendors and guests were set up together, which kept a steady flow of traffic of shoppers and autograph seekers. Each room was structed in a way that attendees and guests had plenty of room for lines and vendors could show off their wares in a nice presentation.
Vendors included toy and collectible dealers, artists, and filmmakers. There were plenty of action figures, Pops, and statues for sale, as well as trading cards, movie posters, horror novels, magazines, and comics. Vendor-made material included original art, jewelry, jewelry boxes, candleholders, masks, pins, and other material. Some vendors were there to promote other projects like independent films, conventions, and events, including Creature Feature Weekend in Gettysburg, Fresh Kills Con in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and World Oddities Expo in Baltimore.
Pop, Rock ‘N Horror was created by Scott Hewitt, a regular vendor on the convention circuit with his store, Scott’s Variety Shop. Hewitt and the Pop, Rock ‘N Horror team clearly used the knowledge they’ve accrued at other conventions to plan and host an event designed for fan fun and vendor/guest success.
“Being a vendor means a lot to me. It always will. The friendships you make in the vendor pit are real. I have a deeply personal connection to most of the customers I have, and we talk about things that we can make better. I listened for years and tried to take the best ideas from five years and make them a reality for fans, but not forgetting my fellow vendors. Making this affordable from the autograph perspective allowed fans to have more money in the vendor rooms,” Hewitt commented on how being a vendor shaped his perspective on planning the event.
Some of those aspects came in their use of social media. Leading up to the weekend, the con promoted vendors by posting details and images of what they were planning to sell during the show. On Friday afternoon before the con opened, they posted videos of a staffer walking through the hotel to show attendees where each room was located. Since guests often leave early on Sundays to catch flights home, they shared a list of who was leaving early and at what time, giving Sunday-only attendees ample notice for when to get their autographs. Additionally, the con purchased subs for the vendors during Friday’s setup period.
The professional photo ops were presented in special packages for the reunions, in-costume options, and ones with related props. Some of those included a Return of the Living Dead reunion photo with a gravestone, Thornton in-costume as Art the Clown, and Wallace with an E.T. prop, among several other options. Many, if not all, guests were also taking photos at their tables, as well, but these special photo ops gave fans unique opportunities that were personalized and different from selfies at the tables.
The casts of Cugo and Return of the Living Dead gathered for reunion panels on Saturday night, to share filming experiences, recount onset stories, and answer audience questions. Films were also shown throughout the weekend, featuring both popular favorites and new indie flicks.
There were daily costume contests and rather than having judges determine the winners, the contestants had a photo uploaded to the show’s Facebook page and whoever got the most likes from fellow attendees won the contests.
Saturday night’s after hours entertainment was a blast. First, they hosted a bonfire on the hotel grounds, which is not something I’ve seen at other conventions. For two hours, attendees could enjoy marshmallows and conversation with each other, some of the vendors, and a few of the guests. Return of the Living Dead guests attended, with Núñez mingling throughout the crowd, Randolph and Trautman told an impromptu campfire story, and Quigley led a few people in skipping around the fire. Wallace and Loree also attended the bonfire, talking to fans and sharing drinks in a relaxed setting.
Talking about the bonfire, Hewitt described the after hours event as “the pinnacle of this experience.” He went on to say, “When you looked around and saw over 200 folks outside, celebrities and attendees drinking and talking about horror to each other, without having their phones constantly in their hands, high fiving each other. Celebrities doing live feeds on their pages. Miguel Núñez playing with kids, Dee Wallace and Richard Band mingling in the crowd, Brad Loree having a beer with fans, young kids throwing a football together, Wysteria Shaw roasting marshmallows. This is what I wanted Pop, Rock ‘N Horror to be. And this is what it was.”
On Friday and Saturday nights, Blue Sky Entertainment hosted Skaraoke, a.k.a. horror karaoke. The hotel bar was packed with would be singers for a fun time of singing everything from death metal to Disney songs. On Saturday night, Quigley gave her rendition of “Wannabe,” Van Hentenryck brought out his guitar for a few songs, and several guests came together for a rendition of “Love Shack.”
Pop, Rock ‘N Horror was a blast. It was surprisingly well organized for a first year convention, showing how much the team used what they’ve learned at other cons. Given that it was a first timer, the crowd wasn’t large, which meant that attendees had more time with the guests, many of whom were very talkative. It also changed the atmosphere from that of a large scale event to more of a gathering. It was definitely a success and based on reactions online, attendees are hoping for another installment.
“My goal for this convention was simple, Hewitt said. “I wanted people to remember what they loved about horror, and what made it great to them. And for each of us to rekindle our love with the horror genre.”
To see more photos from Pop, Rock ‘N Horror, check out the photo gallery in our Catch the Wave section.