When an event returns after having been away for a while, it is common for marketers to crow “It’s bigger and better than ever!”
They’re usually fibbing.
But in the case of Fright Night, it’s the naked truth.
Or perhaps, the undead truth.
Fright Night returns to downtown Fort Wayne on Saturday after a one-year hiatus.
The hiatus was unavoidable, given the very real frights of the pandemic. Those frights have become more manageable, so the event is back with a few adjustments.
Rick Zolman, the events & program manager for the Downtown Improvement District, said attendees will be encouraged but not required to wear masks.
Meaning virus-blocking masks, not monster masks.
Well, let’s just say they are being encouraged to wear both.
For different reasons, of course.
Return of the Zombie Walk
Zombie Central (which is the name for Fright Night headquarters and the starting line for the Zombie Walk) is moving from the library plaza to the I&M Power Center plaza.
“There’s more space,” Zolman said, “and the library isn’t doing as much from a production standpoint as they’ve done in the past.”
That locale will also make it easier for attendees to dine at restaurants on Wayne and Calhoun streets, he said.
There will be a new Zombie Walk route that will take shufflers through Promenade Park.
“We’re actually going to go north on Harrison Street and then cross the sidewalk at Promenade and then come out on the Wells Street Bridge side and head south on Harrison Street,” Zolman said.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, there will be no zombie face-painting tent and no events at the Old Fort.
But many of the more beloved features of Fright Night will return, including a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the outdoor terrace at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, activities related to the old jail at The History Center, and various ARCH-sponsored tours of downtown Fort Wayne’s dark past.
There will be new facets as well, including a raven search in Promenade Park and an appearance by the all-female team of paranormal researchers known as The Original ParaSisters.
But the most vital information I can impart here about this year’s Fright Night may be about events that are not this year’s Fright Night. They are independent-but-complementary happenings that are occurring concurrently.
Cinema Center’s annual Hobnobben Film Festival will be happening at the Embassy Theatre the entire weekend, including on Fright Night.
Hobnobben co-chairs Alix Watson, Amanda Hille, and Christi Hille have programmed two blocks of horrific short films especially for Fright Night.
Across the street from the Embassy on West Jefferson Boulevard, something even bigger has been brewing.
It’s a new horror convention called The Dead Convention, aka Dead Con. Whatzup’s Chris Hupe previewed it thoroughly last week.
The convention is the brainchild of local horror author and editor Eric Vernor who has attended many such conventions to advance his literary efforts.
He has always wondered why Fort Wayne couldn’t host something similar.
With encouragement from Zolman, Vernor is about to prove that Fort Wayne can host something similar.
There will be ghost hunts at the Masonic Lodge led by prominent personalities from cable shows, a masquerade ball, a horror film marathon, and live music from horror-themed bands.
There will also be appearances by celebrities, including actors Danny Trejo and Bai Ling, rocker Lita Ford, and author Dacre Stoker, who is the great grandnephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker.
Vernor said he is already thinking about next year’s convention.
“We want to take over the entire four floors of the Masonic Lodge next year,” he said. “I’ve already discussed this with the guys who own and operate the lodge. We want to turn every floor into something spectacular that Fort Wayne is just going to lose their minds over.”
Vernor wants Dead Con to be around for many years to come.
“I will tell you that the city, the Grand Wayne and all the hotels I’m working with have offered me arrangements for the next two years for sure,” he said. “We’d love to be around for the next decade.”
Fright Night Refuses to Be Buried
Despite the dampening nature of the pandemic, Fright Night will also be around a long time and will continue to get more interesting, Zolman said.
“We look at this event and see it has plenty of opportunities to grow,” he said. “I think having Dead Con alongside of it expands the reach of the event. Maybe people who come downtown for the convention will see 9,500 zombies walking around and say, “Hey! I want to be part of that as well!’”