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Event Review: Central Florida’s Spookala Holiday Spooktacular

Words and Photos By Steph Cannon

After a rousingly successful debut show earlier this year, Central Florida’s newest and spookiest show, Spookala, was back this past weekend with their Holiday Spooktacular. Held at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, FL, Spookala’s inaugural show this past May was heralded by pop culture and horror fans alike for their star-studded lineup and large selection of vendors. Showing the promise of now being a permanent fixture in the horror convention scene, Spookala treated fans to a holiday-themed event the weekend before Christmas. The two-day convention featured an extensive list of vendors selling items such as horror memorabilia, collectibles, comics, leatherwork, and more.

Alongside the celebrity guest list, one of the main highlights of the show was the opportunity for con-goers to be treated to live performances and interactive Q&A sessions. Saturday featured panels with Ken Kerzinger (Jason in Freddy Vs Jason), music duo Twiztid, and Jonathan Breck (The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers). The later part of the day included live musical performances from Tim Cappello (The Lost Boys), and Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys, Goonies), as well a stand up routine and Q&A session from Jamie Kennedy (Scream, Malibu’s Most Wanted). VIP ticket holders also were able to attend a live concert from Twiztid, First Jason, and others at O’Malley’s Alley bar later that night.

Sunday included panels with Nick Castle (“The Shape” - Halloween), Alex Winter (The Lost Boys, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), plus a Terrifier 2 panel with writer / director Damien Leone, and cast members David Howard Thornton, Lauren Lavera, Elliott Fulham, and Leah Voysey. Tim Cappello also had a short encore performance. The day was rounded off with a cosplay costume contest.

In addition, Spookala hosted celebrity signings and photo ops with Andy Black (Black Veil Brides), Kevin L. Johnson (Stranger Things), Zach Galligan (Gremlins), Jamison Newlander (The Lost Boys), Mark Steiger (Stranger Things), Matthew Demeritt (E.T.), James Remar (The Warriors), Ari Lehman (Friday the 13th), and Chelsea Talmadge (Stranger Things). Wrestling stars Darby Allin, Rebel, Dr Britt Baker DMD, Christian Cage, Danhausen and Shotzi were also in attendance for signings and photo ops.

One of the offerings that set Spookala apart from others is the aforementioned live performances. Giving attendees the chance to watch concerts and routines in the middle of the afternoon with the price of admission is something not normally seen with a convention of its kind. Emcee and Panel Host Matt Knowles said of the event: “One of the best and most unique aspects of Spookala is that the venue is open air inside, meaning it’s all in one giant, unseparated room. This way the attendees and vendors don’t have to miss out on what’s happening on the main stage. There are also jumbotrons on both ends of the facility, simulcasting the insanity. I talked to many of the celebrities that were entertained by what was happening on the panel stage while at their signing table because of this (even though the stage was on the opposite side of the building).”

He continued: “I’d like to give a huge shout out to the mastermind behind it all, Deej Gualandri, his partner Jonathan Dismuke, and all of the support staff. Without them, a show like this doesn’t take place. They keep me on my toes in the best of ways with every event, and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for the future.”

Combining horror with the holidays is a genre that has picked up popularity over the last few years, with a number of horror-themed Christmas movies finding their way into theaters and streaming services. Based on the attendance and initial social media response, it's clear that Spookala's Holiday Spooktacular was beloved and built on the innovative, professional, entertainment-filled foundation laid by the inaugural event.

If you missed out on the Spookala: Holiday Spooktacular, fear not: Spookala will be back at Ocala, FL’s World Equestrian Center June 9-11, 2023, and it also expands to Tampa, FL, at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Oct 6-8, 2023.


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