Doug Sheldon owns a 50,000-square-foot haunted attraction in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

So, ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night don’t frighten him.

However, things like a major snowstorm and a big increase in COVID-19 cases are another matter.

Sheldon is bringing Fear Expo Live, a trade show for people who operate haunted houses, to the Owensboro Convention Center on Friday. The show runs through Sunday.

“We’re expecting around 1,000 people in the industry from all over the country,” he said Thursday. “But there are two variables I can’t control — the weather and COVID-19.”

He’s hoping for good weather and a drop in COVID-19 cases.

Sheldon said 2021 “was a good year for the industry. We saw record numbers at attractions.”

But he said, “The past couple of years, the industry has gone through a lot, and there seems to be no let up.”

So, Sheldon is offering free admission and free 10-foot by 10-foot booth space to people in the industry who attend his first show in Owensboro.

By early December, he had signed up 71 vendors, with more having been added since then.

Fear Expo Live 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.

Workshops include a “Leather Muzzle Workshop” and “Big Scares With Bad Actors.”

Laura Alexander, general manager of the convention center, said earlier, “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. This will be a big boost to the local economy during a time when it is typically slower.”

Mark Calitri, president of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said, “For a first-year event, the Fear Expo has generated a lot of buzz. As we move forward and knowing that we are adding a new hotel, it will be critical for us to be creative in attracting unique concepts like this to the convention center. It’s all about the economic impact, bringing new events and people to town.

“The unique nature of this event allows us to expose our amazing community and all that we have to offer to an entirely new client base. I’m confident that our downtown scene will keep the expo attendees entertained, and the staff at the center will provide amazing service. Entertaining our guests and providing great, friendly service will be the first steps and the secret to growing this event in the future.”

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.

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.

HauntWorld.com 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. We estimate there are over 1,200 haunted attractions charging admission fees to their events” in the United States.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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