Interview with Jeff Waldridge, Event Manager & Co-Founder of the ScareFest Convention


On September 13-15, 2013, the 6th annual ScareFest Horror and Paranormal Convention will be held at the Lexington Convention Center in Lexington, Kentucky.  ScareFest has quickly become one of the largest events of its kind.  Each year fans from all over the country converge on Lexington for three days of horror and paranormal filled entertainment.  Not only do the fans get to meet their favorite stars of the horror and paranormal genres one-on-one, they also get to shop from over 200 uniquely unusual vendors, attend workshops, free seminars, and Q&A panels to learn more about the fields they love, and party the night away at the VIP party and costume balls.  These are just some of the activities planned for the fans of ScareFest.  If you would like more information about this year's convention, including the guest lineup and activities, you can visit their site at www.scarefestcon.com.

The convention this year has expanded to include gaming and cosplay.  I'm sure there are some of you who are unfamiliar with gaming and cosplay.  Some of the gaming will include Magic the Gathering Card Game, Warhammer, and HeroClix.  From what I understand there will also be "regular" board games such as Monopoly.  Cosplay is short for costume play, where people can come dressed as their favorite character from a movie, comic book, or other genre.

The ScareFest Convention is governed by a board of 5 members.  They are:
  • Jeff Waldridge, Co-Creator and Event Manager
  • Patti Starr, owner of both ScareFest and Ghost Chasers International
  • Chuck Starr, Chief Financial Officer (and Patti's husband)
  • Lee and Jennifer Kirkland, Organizers
Jeff Waldridge was kind enough to answer some questions for me via email about ScareFest.  I chose to interview him via email because I realize his time is very valuable right now due to the convention being less than a month away.  I felt it would be more convenient for him to be able to answer my questions at his leisure.  I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to Jeff for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to answer my questions.

SP:  What prompted you to want to organize a convention?

JW:  Around 2006 I came up with the idea of a Horror convention of some kind in Lexington, KY, because it had not been done.  So I approached Patti about it.  We discussed it and she brought up the idea of adding Paranormal.  We realized that the two genres had never been done together so we did it. We were the first Horror and Paranormal Convention; copy cats followed but they don't have the secret recipe. :) 

SP:  Why approach Patti Starr?

JW:  I had taken Patti’s course in Lexington and had investigated with her a lot.  I really think alot of her and Chuck, almost like second parents.  I trusted them and knew if done with them it would be done right.
 
SP:  How did Lee and Jennifer Kirkland get involved?

JW:  Lee and Jennifer took Patti’s class and started volunteering.  Over the years their roles have grown within Scarefest due to their dedication.

SP:  Has there ever been a point in time where you felt so overwhelmed you wanted to throw up your hands and let someone else take over?

JW:  Every Year LOL But that’s just part of the stress.  This is my baby and although you get frustrated with your children you can't just throw it away.  We have been approached by some major folks wanting to buy it but we do not trust they will run it with the same goals in mind.

SP:  When the convention was first organized, what was the reception of a horror/paranormal combination?

JW:  People said it would not work and alot of convention insiders frowned at it.

SP:  Have you been approached by other organizers who wanted to “copy” your concept? 

JW:  Yes but they just copy it, they don't ask and they usually fail.

SP:  You are well-known for wanting ScareFest to be as fan-friendly as possible.  Why is that so important to you? 

JW:  The fans are important because number one - I am a fan and I know what they expect. I create memories people will remember forever so they need to be good ones.

SP:  ScareFest has expanded this year to include gaming and cosplay.  What has been the response to that? 

JW:  Good so far but we really won't know until the event. 

SP:  With the inclusion of gaming and cosplay, ScareFest has expanded its floor space.  Is there enough space at the Lexington Convention Center in the event you need to expand again? 

JW:  Oh yes, we can keep growing there; that’s why the venue’s perfect.

SP:  Are there other events in the works to be included in future conventions?

JW:  Always looking to expand to new things; we got to keep it fresh. 

SP:  As you are very much aware, a recent convention (which I attended) was blasted for being extremely unorganized.  Has the negativity they received impacted ScareFest in any way? 

JW:  People worry alot more about certain things like "selling out." Selling out may happen some time, but crowd management is key in making sure that does not happen. NEVER SCREW THE FANS!!!!!

SP:  The other convention also had a “crowd control” problem.  Do you have procedures in place in the event this happens at the Lexington Convention Center? 

JW:  I stress badly about it and make sure I go through every little part for crowd control. 

SP:  Have you had to rethink the way some things are handled at ScareFest as a result of the problems the other convention had? 

JW:  Not really because I pre-troubleshoot the event pretty well.

SP:  Have you considered writing a book/memoir about ScareFest?

JW:  Eventually Patti and I will and it will be a good one.

SP:  If you had a crystal ball, what would you see in the future for ScareFest? 

JW:  Bigger and better than ever!  LOL

One more tidbit.  When we were planning year one, I literally sacrificed so much to make it happen it damn near killed me.  LOL That’s why I am so protective over the event, along with Patti and Chuck.  I run a tight ship because it reflects badly on the three of us if somebody screws up.

SP:  How much emphasis, if any, do you put on volunteer training?  They always seem so knowledgeable about what's going on and are very professional acting. 

JW:  We train them probably more than any other convention out there.  I'm very firm with what they're required to do.  Like I said, what they do reflects on Patti, Chuck, and me, as well as the others who work hard.  We have a manual and rules they must follow, even a waiver saying they will keep things confidential.



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