If you’d like to read my review of Busch Gardens Tampa’s Howl O Scream 2011, click here.
As usual, Harknell and I had a blast. We have been traveling all the way from New Jersey for this for 3 years now. It would have been 4 years if I hadn’t been the idiot who thought BGT was too far away from Orlando in 2008. I mistakenly thought that Tampa was where Miami is located. Miami is 3.5 hours away, Tampa is only 1.
Since 2009, BGT HoS was the highlight of our haunt tour each year. There is just something about BGT’s HoS that resonated with me. Until this year, I couldn’t figure out what it was.
They usually have a meet up for internetz types during the opening week of the haunt. The problem with this for out of towners is that the haunts are only running on Friday and Saturday during the first week of operation. We usually go the second week because the haunts are running normally (from Thursday through Sunday). For us to go down early enough to attend the meet up it would involve a net loss of nights for us to see the haunts. I love BGT HoS so much that I really considered it, but common sense dictated that we go later when we can have more time with the attractions.
You can imagine how excited we were when we were contacted by Busch Gardens Tampa’s Media Relations department and invited to see the event this year with them during mid October.
Look, I’m from Jersey. I’m not used to people being nice to me. My jaw is still on the floor. Thank you so much Media Relations Manager Jill Revelle and Director of Creative Services Scott Swenson for taking the time out of your busy schedules to spend time with us.
(NOTE: Sorry about the blurriness on some of the shots. Since this trip I went out and bought a flash attachment to prevent any further camera shenanigans. Next year’s haunt photos should be a lot better. :D)
First we met up with Jill and went to Fright Feast together. I have NO IDEA why, but I was pretty nervous. For more pix of the event and the Fright Feast, click over to my review.
We each got Front Line Fear passes and a swag bag:
Harknell got this cool T Shirt:
Lots of notebooks and pens and HoS gum:
After Fright Feast, we unexpectedly got to meet the park president and the VP of Finance. That was surreal and awesome. They seemed like really nice guys. Then Jill, Harknell, and I went through some of the houses together. The coolest part was that she would tell me things about the houses before, after, and during when we were going through them. There are things in the houses that your average person might miss, but we saw it all! :D
Later in the night, Jill had a surprise for me. I had spoken with HoS Creative Director Scott Swenson before, but we had never met in person. We were led into a secret room and got to talk with Scott for about 20 minutes, attend the following presentation, and then talk some more! Honestly? I missed out on riding some rides because we stayed so long, but we didn’t care! I do love rides, but I’m downright fascinated by the creative process of haunted attractions and theme parks. I am a Project Manager now for digital media projects, but my dream job would be to work on something in the theme park or haunted attraction industry. Hanging out with Jill and Scott was the better deal by far. Scott is just as nice as he seems in person.
Scott showed us his Sylvie doll (Sylvie was last year’s icon.) that was given to him last year:
We also got to see some plans for the houses, but I can’t show you those. Just take my word for it – they were cool!
After all of this it was about 11:30 PM, and we had to go to our reservation for the Alone House. (I talk about this in my full review of BGT HoS.)
I’ll just cut to the chase. I think the reason why BGT HoS always resonated with me was because these guys put on their event with the same enthusiasm Harknell and I have for our event. I can really tell when people take pride in their work and I think others can, too. It was cool to see Jill and Scott talk about their work. It was almost like looking at a mirror image of the bizarro Florida Oni and Harknell. The presentation wasn’t just an “oh wow cool” type of thing to us. We really were engaging with what they were saying. We just started our own event in 2010, so a lot of the logistical and planning challenges that any event faces are things we think about every day. We are kind of weird in that we enjoy what we are doing, so talking about planning the construction of something is actually fun to us.
There are 2 days in my life that I can point to as the best day of my life. The first one is when I was 28 and finally able to afford to go to Orlando after a lifetime of working for it. The second is this day at BGT HoS.
The best part about all of this is that this wasn’t some attempt to convince me to like their event more than I already did. You can do a search on my blog to read my reviews of their stuff before anyone ever contacted me and longtime readers know that subtlety is not my strong suit. I was urged many times over the course of the night to tell them if things were not working right so that they can fix them. They kept telling me to blog even the negative things, too.
Sorry, guys, I’m a total jerkbag and even I can’t think of anything negative to say about HoS this year aside from the fact that you guys RAN OUT OF HOODIES so I couldn’t buy one! :D I will definitely be back next year!
Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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