For the past decade, Scarefest has made it a mission to deliver the ideal fan experience for those who appreciate slashers and the supernatural, gore and ghosts, monsters and mysticism, and pop culture and the paranormal. It has brought in hundreds of celebrity guests and welcomed tens of thousands of fans who come from across the commonwealth and beyond to scratch their itches for the horror genre, the world of paranormal investigation or a little bit of both.
The 10th-anniversary Scarefest, Friday through Sunday at the Lexington Convention Center, has the potential to be the biggest yet, based on ticket sales and the illustrious guests attendees will get the opportunity to meet, including Freddy Kruger himself, Robert Englund; “Machete” star Danny Tejo; and original “Rocky Horror Picture Show” star Barry Bostwick.
A convention that has been around for 10 years and continues to grow wouldn’t be possible without a lot of dedicated and passionate people who work behind the scenes or make it a point to attend every year.
Here are volunteers and fans who are involved year after year to hear about the beginnings, growth, success and the family of Scarefest, in their own words.
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Anita “A.J.” Bryant, celebrity handler, self-proclaimed “jack of all trades,” ninth-year volunteer
“The former (Scarefest) owner, Patti Starr, we used to do paranormal investigations together. I started off by taking a couple of her classes. From there, there was a talk of starting a ‘con’ (convention) and it just grew from there.”
Adam Johnson, Scarefest head of Stars Row security, 10th-year volunteer
“My ex-wife is the one that got me involved in it. I started going to the meetings and I was like, this seems pretty cool. Let’s see if I can get involved.”
Bryant: “We personally had gone to some cons in Cincinnati, one in Louisville, in particular, to check out what it’s like, what it entailed, and we thought Lexington needed one.”
Johnson: “When you meet somebody, usually they’re about one thing. They’re about their horror fans, they want to see the blood guts and gore, but there are those fans that are paranormal fans. The two subgroups are really close together, so why not put them together? Cater to both crowds.”
Christina Breen, Scarefest assistant director of operations, first attended in 2010, third-year volunteer
“It was the collection of everything all in one place that was cool. It was like Disney World for horror freaks.”
Jake Godbold, Scarefest fan, Evansville, Indiana, attending the convention since 2014
“This was my third con I’d ever went to, and I was just absolutely blown away by how great they were, how organized it was. It was just a solid, solid show.”
Breen: “I just loved all the cosplayers that come, all the passion that is put into it. It’s just amazing to see how much love people have for something that you don’t share with your normal world.”
Godbold: “One thing I love the most about Scarefest is they make it to where it’s affordable to most people, to where they don’t have their guests overcharge for their autographs.”
Breen: “I’ve been to conventions where it’s $100, $200, $300 for just an autograph or a quick picture. We try to keep things low for our fans so they can enjoy tons of extra things. You can literally fill your day full of stuff and not pay any more than your admission price.”
Godbold: “I think it was the third year I went. The lineup, in my opinion, wasn’t appealing to me. I bought my tickets and I went and I had a fabulous time. It was a fun three-day getaway from all the drama in my life.”
Johnson: “We’re still independently owned. We’re still the little guy. It’s funny that we are still the little guy, because we’ve been growing for 10 years.”
Johnson: “I’d say probably just when we first started, we had half of the Lexington Convention Center, and now we’ve grown where we encompass the whole thing. Every year, the attendance grows and the stars that attend grows.”
Bryant: “We actually had stars reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, can I come again next year?’ We just really gained a great reputation.”
Johnson: “Everybody knows Scarefest, especially in Kentucky, and it’s all across the state. I’ve been in Owensboro and seen people with Scarefest shirts on. I’ve been to Paducah and seen Scarefest magnets on their cars.”
“It’s funny this little thing that started in the back room of a ghost shop has grown into what it is.”
Bryant: “Booking the stars, working together with agents, sometimes we’re not all on the same page, and that can be a bit of a struggle. I would say that is the most troublesome experience. Pinning people down on their schedule. They are very busy people.”
Breen: “Doug Bradley (Pinhead from the “Hellraiser” franchise) is probably my favorite. I fangirl over him.”
Godbold: “It was Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”). I’m a huge fan of Malcolm McDowell, so when I heard he was going to be there, I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve got to do this.’”
Johnson: “I don’t get starstruck with the horror people, so to speak, but we also have people besides horror there. Some of the paranormal people I get starstruck with. Every once in a while, we have a wrestler or two come in, and I am a huge wrestling fan. Last year, we had Kevin Nash come in, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”
Bryant: “For me personally, (it) was when it was 2015 and we had the ‘American Horror Story’ people attend, and I’ve stayed in touch with a couple of those people personally.”
Breen: “We had the cast of ‘True Blood’ there (in 2013), so that was a really big deal because it was really big then. It was a big wow factor to have them come.”
Johnson: “ “Some of these guys that keep coming back, like Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” franchise) and R.A. Mihailoff (“Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), I’ve gotten to know these people outside of their roles and outside of the con itself and sit down with them and have a drink, and they’re some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.”
Bryant: “This year is a big major deal for us because we landed Robert Englund. We’ve been trying to land him for years, and to get him this year and have him on board is so exciting.”
Johnson: “There was a small moment like that this year when the hubbub around the office was there’s a possibility we could have Robert Englund. We were like, ‘No, we’re too little-time for him. He’d never come here.’ Sure enough, here he is.”
The next big scare
Breen: “It’s not just a three-day thing for us. It’s a year-round thing.”
Bryant: “As soon as one con has ended, we start working on the next one. It takes a lot of time and a lot of people to put together this convention.”
Breen: “It takes a full year to get it designed correctly and get all of the little pieces to fit together.”
Breen: “Everybody is a volunteer. Nobody gets paid. Everybody comes in, we throw in some blood, sweat and tears, and we get it set up. By the time we sit down, Scarefest is in full effect.”
Bryant: “(Patti Starr) asked me to participate and I’m glad I did, because it became like family through the years.”
Breen: “There’s other conventions that try to do what we do, but they can’t do it on the scale that we do it because they don’t have us. They don’t have our staff. They don’t have our family that has been at it for years.”
Johnson: “Scarefest is a monster that once you grab ahold of it, you really don’t want to let go.”
Blake Hannon: email@example.com
If you go
What: Annual horror, paranormal pop culture convention
Celebrity guests include
▪ Robert Englund, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”
▪ Danny Trejo, “Machete”
▪ Barry Bostwick, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”
▪ Kevin Alejandro, “True Blood”
▪ Kristy Swanson, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (movie)
▪ Edward James Olmos, “Blade Runner” and many more
When: Exhibit floor open 5-9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Lexington Convention Center, 430 W. Vine St.
Tickets: $50 regular, $100 VIP weekend; $20 Friday, $25 Saturday, $15 Sunday.
More information: Thescarefest.com for full schedules, guest lists and more.