The Fear is coming — and Owensboro officials can’t wait.

Doug Sheldon, who owns a 50,000-square-foot haunted attraction — The Haunt — in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said Tuesday that he is bringing Fear Expo Live to the Owensboro Convention Center on Jan. 21-23.

And he’s expecting it to draw 4,000 people from across the country.

That would be the largest convention and trade show the city has ever seen.

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said even half of that number would be a major deal for the city.

Terry Woodward’s old WaxWorks/VideoWorks trade show drew 2,100 people in 1993.

And several conventions through the years have topped 1,500.

But nothing has come close to 4,000 people except festivals and events like the Owensboro Air Show.

Owensboro has around 1,400 hotel rooms.

But Sheldon said many of those attending are families and will be staying together in one room.

For those who stay in Evansville, he said arrangements will be made to get them to the convention center each day.

The trade show is for people who operate haunted attractions to help them get ready for the 2022 season, Sheldon said.

It will offer master classes, hands-on workshops, a vendor showcase show, haunt tours, a costume ball, a concert, a costume fashion show and a Friday night after party.

Laura Alexander, general manager of the convention center, said, “According to the planner, they have seen such a high interest in coming to Owensboro that they have already requested additional space for the entire weekend. They have been asking about corporate dinners at restaurants and bars as well as other special activities in the community. This will be a big boost to the local economy during a time when it is typically slower.”

Took ‘amazing effort’

Calitri said, “It took an amazing community-wide team effort to attract a large national trade show like Fear Expo Live. The convention center, Visit Owensboro, our local hotels, Chris Joslin at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame, Green River Distilling and restaurants and other attractions all worked together, highlighting the incredible assets Owensboro has to offer.”

Sheldon said he looked at several other cities before deciding on Owensboro for the trade show.

“I really like the convention center and the town,” he said.

Sheldon’s website says the trade show will be in “the beautiful city of Owensboro — Kentucky’s BEST Hidden Gem!”

It adds, “Here, you will find endless entertainment and dining options with a SAFE, relaxing & fun-filled atmosphere for vendors & haunters of all types.”

Calitri said local officials and businesses worked hard to bring the trade show to town.

He said, “Doug Sheldon, the event owner, is a true professional and well known in the national haunt scene. This event and the economic impact it creates to our local businesses highlights the importance of a continued effort to attract meetings, events, and trade shows.”

Bill Brown, one of the owners of The Pub on Second, was one of those who met with Sheldon when he first visited the city.

“Trade show events like this bring new out-of-town people to our city and provide an immediate financial impact for my business,” he said. “That means we must hire more people, buy more products and this then allows us to offer more selections in the long term to our local clients.”

The Haunt, Sheldon’s 50,000-square-foot attraction in Grand Rapids, has more than 144 rooms, almost 100 actors and 62 animatronics.

It takes about an hour for visitors to see it all, he said.

Sheldon said he’s “looked at putting an attraction in Owensboro, but I haven’t decided. There’s still a lot to look at.”

He said the trade show’s goal is to bring in people in the haunted industry from other countries.

But with COVID-19 still raging, Sheldon said he’s going to wait awhile before reaching out to them. says, “Haunted attraction owners spend annually over $250 million with specific haunted house vendors for supplies like fog machines, scary animatronic monsters, lighting equipment or masks and costumes to assist them in scaring America.”

It adds, “The biggest growth for the vendors to the haunted industry is now overseas, where haunted houses are opening at a record pace.” says, “We estimate there are over 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission fees to their events” in the United States.


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