Category: Guest Post

2015, Guest Post, Haunted Attractions

Williamsburg, Virginia Haunted Attractions: Busch Gardens Howl O Scream “Fiends” 2015 Review

IMG_7704_FixedThis is a guest post by Kara Dennison.

To date myself yet again when it comes to Howl-O-Scream experience, I remember “Fiends” being “Fiends in the Festhaus.” Now — as probably the majority of the world knows — it’s at the Abbey Stone Theatre in Killarney, with “Night Beats” having taken up residence at Das Festhaus for this time of year. That said, I’d never even seen it in its previous iteration. The nurse costumes were known to me due to some crossover at a Katsucon event not long ago, but I’d never actually witnessed them on their home turf.

If I had to describe “Fiends” briefly, I’d say that it’s exactly like “Rocky Horror” except when it’s not. It has many of the same elements and a similar approach to bawdy humour, but presented in a way that’s a lot more likely to fly over the heads of anyone not already of a dirty-minded disposition. There’s no denying it is full of scantily clad nurses. They’re not going over anyone’s head (well, except for that one bit early on). Nurse Simplicity herself is a walking double entendre when she’s not lying down.

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The story — again more of a frame for a jukebox musical than anything we should concern ourselves with too hard — follows their preening Frankenstein analogue as he calls together spooky creatures of all kinds to help him build the ultimate Fiend. With the help of the loyal but put-upon Igor, he creates his “monster”… but it’s not quite what he was expecting.

It feels a bit weird to put the words “family friendly” within spitting distance of “Fiends,” but the naughty jokes are good-natured, non-violent, and placed just out of reach. I imagine some out there might have some issues with the scantily-clad nurses, most of whom seem ready to disrobe for any handsome man who takes the stage. (You can practically feel the word “problematic” vibrating below your feet from the direction of Tumblr.) Your mileage may vary on that. If you’re of the sensibility that this should never ever happen, you will be gnawing your arm off during “Fiends.” But rest assured that Nurse Simplicity and her cohorts do end up doing a lot more than posing and throwing their bras. No, I promise, they do.

IMG_7699_FixedHonestly, though, the true hero of the show is Igor. There were a few flubs on the night I went: an occasional mic going dead and one or two blocking slip-ups, certainly nothing indicative of anything more serious than the perils of live theatre. Igor handled any in his vicinity with easy fourth-wall-breaking humour. He was reminiscent to me in many ways of Patsy in “Spamalot” (another show-stealer).

The choice of music was your usual fun mixed bag. Nothing glaringly strange or out of place, a decent spread (much of it expected — you can’t do a show like this and not include “Weird Science”), and well performed. Some of the effects were more on the flashy side, I will say. Fine if you’ve no issues with strobes, but I found myself having to look down and away. They aren’t pervasive, but they are there, and on the bright side it’s pretty easy to tell when they’re going to kick in. I’d like to have seen them do more with the thrust (by which I mean the table poking into the audience, you beasts). The dancers engaged somewhat, but it would have been fun to see them avail themselves of it a bit more, especially considering there was a degree of, if not audience participation, at least audience going-out-into-ing.

I didn’t walk out of this wowed like I did “Monster Stomp,” but this wasn’t meant to wow — it was meant to get giggles, and it definitely did that. It’s a bright, shiny, silly point in a dark and macabre park, and no matter how much you enjoy the terror outside its doors, there’s something rather nice about knowing it’s there when you’d rather laugh than scream.

 

2015, Attractions, Food, Guest Post, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Virginia

Williamsburg, VIrginia Haunted Attractions: Busch Gardens Howl O Scream Blood Banquet 2015 Review

This is a guest post by Donika Haddock!

Friday, September 25th marked the opening night for Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and once again we were able to dine at Howl-O-Scream’s famed Blood Banquet.

The Blood Banquet is a unique event to the park. Buffet style dining experience with a show. Located adjacent to the Oktoberfest area of the park, they have transformed the Wilkommenhaus gift shop to a buffet restaurant, complete with a stage surrounding the statue that is located in front of the building, as well as adding outdoor seating. Yes, it’s also the same location where Santa’s Workshop is during Christmas Town.

2015 may not be the first year for the Blood Banquet, but it IS the first year that they did not use a Vampire as the main character of their dinner show. Gone is Count Vlad and his family of vampires. If you remember Igor’s Fright Feast from 2013 and 2014, that dining experience is missing from 2015 and Igor has actually moved and taken over the Blood Banquet. What does he have to do with a vampire themed hotel dinner and show experience? I don’t really know. Opening weekend was a wet and soggy weekend with off and on rain cancelling the show. I will admit, I went back to the park on Sunday night and caught about two minutes of Igor’s show while passing through the area, and while entertaining, I still failed to understand what Igor has to do with the Blood Banquet, even though he was dancing with a group of vampires. I’ll check the show out on another visit to the park where I can time it to catch the beginning. Since we didn’t get a show, we did get to meet the characters as they came out and visited with the guests. That was a nice touch.

Now, on to the actual food.

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Pork-Loin

Red-Velvet

Carving-Station

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I have dined at the Blood Banquet the previous two years and have enjoyed it immensely. As with most banquets, you get your choice of veggies, meats, breads, and desserts. Popular items on the buffet include their carving station with your choice of Diablo turkey or garlic and rosemary roast beef, their CASKet Club Chili, and baked potatoes complete with your choice of toppings (butter, sour cream, bacon bits, cheese), as well as returning desserts of red velvet cupcakes, chocolate tarts, and blood splattered cake. While going through the line and checking out the offerings this year, I thought something was missing. They have changed out some items that were offered in the past two years (pork skewers, empanadas, and roasted veggies) for some newer items (corn medley, chicken parmesan, knockwurst, and my new favorite, mustard glazed pork loin). Also gone this year is their cherry cobbler. WHYYYYY??? That was my favorite dessert out of all of their desserts!!

How was the actual food this year? Still good. Our only ‘complaint’ was that it wasn’t hot. Most was luke warm, except the potatoes. Those were nice and hot. Perfect comfort food for the rainy weather. Yes, we ate there. In the drizzle of rain. But we were hungry and to the point that we didn’t really care. So, with that said, due to the weather, and small group of people eating at the buffet, AND the fact that our reservations were set for 8:15, you can say we were set up for the ‘don’t expect the absolute best dining experience’. Mind you, the food was STILL GOOD, just not hot. What can you really expect for a dining experience with a low turnaround in crappy weather?

The diablo turkey was still delicious, the chili still had it’s spicy kick, and the desserts were still scrumptious. Would I go back? HECK YES!!! Would I go back at 8:15? Not if I can help it. Unless it’s busy. There’s also the lack of lighting once the sun is down. I like to SEE my food while I’m eating. Black plates and darkness don’t work well together. So if you plan to check the Blood Banquet out, I recommend doing it at least once, but make your reservation for as early as you can. It opens at 4pm. This will give you plenty of time to eat before Howl-O-Scream opens at 6pm. This time is also crucial if you want to go through as many of the haunted mazes as possible during the night.

The Blood Banquet costs $22 for adults and $15 for children. Pass members still get their discounts. Price includes soft drinks and water. Adult beverages available for additional cost. Reservations, while not required, are recommended, and you can book online at the park’s website or in person at Guest Relations.

2015, Attractions, General, Guest Post, Theme Parks

Williamsburg, Virginia: Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival Review 2015

This post is a guest post by Donika Haddock.

It’s that time of year again. Spring is here. Kids are getting ready for the end of the school year. And Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer season for Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Starting Friday, May 22nd, the park is open daily through September 7th. It’s also the first day of the parks third annual Food and Wine Festival.

The Food and Wine Festival is the parks opportunity to introduce guests to food, wine, and spirits from around the world. For some people, it’s reminders of foods they grew up with. Others, reminders of foods they tried while on a vacation somewhere far off. And for the rest of us, a chance to try foods from countries or regions we may never get to visit.

One of the great things about the Food and Wine Festival is the vast array of choices. With fourteen different food kiosks to choose from, it’s almost impossible to know where to start. Unlike the daily restaurants throughout the park, the kiosks don’t offer full sized meals. This in itself is a nice change from the generous sampler platters the park offers at each eatery. It’s also a nice change of pace for those that prefer to graze on small meals or snacks throughout the day as opposed to eating full meals. The Food and Wine Festival is meant to be a chance to sample the various food items, and sample you will.

While the majority of the food kiosks from the past two years have returned once again, one Kiosk that has not returned is Belgium, located near Griffon. This one has been replaced with the French Quarter, a nod to New Orleans, it offers chicken & Andouille gumbo a creole-spiced stew with shredded chicken and spicy sausage served over rice, a Muffaletta made with sliced mortadella, salami, ham, and provolone cheese, and a bananas foster cheesecake, a vanilla and pecan crusted cheesecake with an orange-rum caramel sauce. We didn’t get the opportunity to try this kiosk as by the time we got to it, we were full, but I plan to at least get the cheesecake on a future visit. The French Quarter also offers a variety of beers and a frozen hurricane cocktail. Also located just around the corner is a French wine tasting in one of the parks shops, the La Belle Maison. This tasting offers you the chance to sample four different wines for $14.95 and you get to keep the souvenir wine glass.

French-Quarter

Remy

The second new kiosk this year is Asia. This kiosk is located along the edge of Italy, near the bridge to the Festa Italia section of the park. This is my new favorite. Any pass holders that attended the Pass Holder Appreciate weekend this past September and sampled the pass holder meal that was sold at the Fest Haus will recognize the offerings at the Asia kiosk, with a few minor tweaks to their recipes. There’s a Vietnamese style sandwich with marinated pork and pickled vegetables with a type of slaw served on the side called Banh Mi. When sampled in September, it was served with a noodle salad but that was changed to the cabbage slaw for the Food and Wine Festival. I found the slaw had a slight spicy kick but the sandwich was pretty tasty. Then there’s the lettuce wraps. Made with vegetables, tofu, and almonds with a sweet chili dipping sauce. ‘I’m a non-vegetarian that ate tofu and actually liked it!’ were the word spoken nearby. I have to agree.

Banh-Mi

Lettuce-Wrap

My personal favorite offerings at the Asia kiosk though would have to be the Mushi-Gyoza (chicken dumpling), and the ginger-lemongrass custard. The custard recipe was tweaked slightly from what was sampled back in September but I have to say, it’s still delicious! The portion size is plentiful for two people to share, and on hot day, this light and airy, slightly sweet and citrusy custard will be a refreshing way to cool off on a hot and humid day. I also really enjoyed the Thai tea. This blend of black tea and coconut milk is a nice cool drink to pair with their Asia offerings.

Dumpling

LemonCustard

Thai-Tea

Another new offering this year comes in the form of Scotch tastings. Located in the Scotland section of the park, across from the Highland Stables, is the Scotch Tasting stand. For $24.95 you get to sample three variances of Scotch. Just like the wine tastings, you get the samples, they tell you background information about each sample (aged 12 years) and the proper way to drink scotch. For the price, you also get to keep a souvenir glass. I tried it and can say I’m not a fan of scotch. But the adventurer in me can say I tried it at least.

French-Quarter

Scotch-Pricing

Returning once again to the Food and Wine Festival is the Food art. Keep your eyes open for these stands throughout the park with various food artists creating masterpieces out of the likes of fondant, fresh fruit, and vegetables. The artists are always more than happy to chat with park guests about their creations and it’s fun passing them several times during the day to see how their designs are progressing.

Watermelon

And don’t forget to round out your visit by taking the Wine on the Rhine cruise. For $25, guests can enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Rhine River boats. The price includes a glass of wine (for those 21 and up of course) as well as a platter of fresh fruit, cheese, and chocolate.

One more thing to note about the Food offered at the Food and Wine Festival. You may notice some of your favorite food items from the previous two years may taste a little different this year. This is because the park has tweaked several recipes (always an ongoing process) as well as has started making more items in house. This ensures the food offerings are fresher and taste better. One of the changes is the Scotch Eggs. A favorite among a lot of guests.

All in all, the Food and Wine Festival is starting out great for opening weekend, and a holiday weekend at that! It runs Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through June 28th.

2014, Attractions, Guest Post, Theme Parks, Virginia

GUEST POST: Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia 2014 Food and Wine Festival Lackey Report!!!

It’s a beautiful day in Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the 2014 Food and Wine Festival!

No rides for us today though; we’re on an important mission!

Arrr we be here to eat your noms!!!

First stop, Canada for some delicious pear cider and Mac and cheese and bacon. High marks all around!

Next we traveled to the American south west for chicken and chocolate sauce, a fish taco, and a chocolate lava cake.  The main courses were good but the lava cake was a big hit!

Next we go to Belgium and taste the different beers! Hoegaarden was my favorite of the four.

Pier is not a big beer drinker however…

Now off to France! We tried the ratatouille, the sparkling raspberry drink, the steak au poivre, and the lemon tartlette.  The tartlette stole the show!

Next at the coffee and crepes stand we tried the asparagus crepe. The cheese was the best part.

Let’s take a break and see a show while we digest!

Now it’s time for a frozen dirty Shirley and some Swedish meatballs.  Yum!

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Now Scotland is calling with ginger beer, a Scottish egg, and shepherd’s pie!

One last stop in Italy for the caprese salad and the cheese plate!

Delicious! What’s the final tally?

Scotland
Scottish egg – 4
Shepherd’s pie – 5
Crabbie’s ginger beer – 2.5

Scandinavia
Köttbullar – 4
Frozen dirty Shirley – 2.5

Coffee and Crêpes
Asperes et fromage de chėvre crêpe – 3

Belgium
Beer Flight – 5

France
Steak au poivre – 3.25
Tomates farcies à la ratatouille – 2.5
Tartlette au citron – 5
Sparkling raspberry – 3.5

Canada
Macaroni and cheese with peameal bacon – 4
Wyder’s dry pear cider – 5

American southwest
Chicken adobo with sauce mole – 3.5
Fish taco – 3
Chocolate lava cake – 4

Italy
Caprese salad – 2
Italian cheese sampling – 3

2012, Attractions, General, Guest Post, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Theme Parks, UK

Guest Post: Islington, London: ScareCon 2013

Guest post by RollerColster. All photos are copyright of Stephen Candy Photography.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here on Onezumiverse, and haunted attractions here in the UK are going from strength to strength year on year with more popping up in every possible corner of the country. There’s still some way to go to catch you guys up in the States but there are some very exciting things happening this year with some of the larger scale attractions and quite a few innovative smaller attractions that I hope you’ll enjoy reading about over the coming weeks.

One of the biggest events of the year (apart from Halloween itself) is ScareCON – We attended back in June but I felt it was such an important part of the build up to Halloween that I just had to write a piece about it. Here you’ll find the absolute cream of the crop of attractions run over here in the UK as well as a quite a few familiar faces from across Europe and worldwide. The majority of the attendees are from the industry but the event is a must do for anyone who has a keen interest in the running of any of the attractions and also offers a few hints as to what’s new for the coming year.

We arrive bright an early to a bustling venue – The Islington Metalworks in London. In previous years the event has moved around but the location this year really added to the charm of the event. Rather than feeling like a big corporate event, the quirky atmosphere of a building steeped in so much history really brought something new this year.

We arrived just as Kernow Scare Attractions – one of the UK’s leading production companies began their talk. A small company that has grown from pretty much nothing in a small space of time. They are producing some impressive frights and are well known on the UK music festival circuit. They talked about producing haunts on a budget and all the pitfalls in setting up a brand new haunt – fascinating stuff!

Next up Katie Hastings talked about what its like to actually work as a scare actor inside the mazes. Katie is one of the most established scare actresses in the UK and is well respected throughout the country. Her current role is show captain for The Sanctuary at Alton Towers – one of the UK’s newest and most impressive mazes. Her show reel reads like an A-Z of the business. Her talk is engaging and honest, rather than glossing over everything, she tells us the real story of the scare maze, the exhaustion, the illness and not to mention how to cope with abusive guests.

Andrew Porter is at the forefront of maze design, having cut his teeth with some of major players in the US, he has brought his knowledge and experience over to UK soils. His talk is all about breaking boundaries of what can be done on a budget and the importance of attention to detail. It’s an enlightening talk and his enthusiasm is contagious.

Over in one of the workshop rooms, I took part in a prosthetics workshop conducted by Silicone Kitchen, it’s quite a large group but there’s lots of help and good advice given. My piece actually ended up looking pretty damned awesome with a little help from the experts but I’m left thinking that my clumsy fingers really aren’t cut out for the SFX make-up business!

Back in the Seminar hall, Lee Fields of Zed Events talks about one of the most exciting attractions we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing to date – Zombie Manor House (and also Zombie Mall), armed with an air-soft gun you’re given limited ammo and taught the basics of SWAT training, it’s one of the most immersive activities we’ve tried (its literally as close to real life Resident Evil as it gets) and a talk which we were desperate to catch. Lee focused on the health and safety aspects of creating such an experience and also about finding the right location, not only was the talk insightful but it also fueled our hunger to get back to the manor house for some more zombie killing action!

Over the past couple of years, there seems to have been a surge of city wide chase games where players pay to take part in an interactive story which has them running around a whole city chased by zombies or monsters. Scott Jenkins from More Is More (one of the companies at the helm of these kind of games) talks of the issues they faced when populating a city full of monsters. He also focused on the importance of creating something unique and innovative in order to get people talking.

Next up, Sean Boon, Hampshire magician gives a workshop on the essentials of social media and the importance in getting it right. Despite having used social media for years it was a great refresher course and although aimed at new users there was still loads of bad habits we had maybe fallen into over the years!

Pete Cliff creator of The Sanctuary at Alton Towers Scarefest talked about how they created such an immersive attraction. Its very clear how much passion and focus Pete has and how it all transferred into the maze. It’s arguably the biggest success story of 2012 for UK haunts.

Andrew Walker from Thorpe Park’s Fright Nights event took to the stage next and mainly gave an overview of the event talking about how they’ve created some of the most unique attractions and how some have worked and talked openly of why others didn’t. He hinted at big things to come for 2013, a big revamp of the event was in order and a teaser image left everyone in the room talking for the rest of the day.

Tom Swift creator of Hop Farm Freak Week talked about how he’s created one of the most successful events in recent years. Again offering innovative attractions he talked about the operational aspects of running a large scale haunt but dropped the bombshell that Freak Week wouldn’t be returning for 2013 and that he was going to focus on bringing one maze into the public eye – Pitch Black – arguably one of the event’s strongest and scariest mazes – we’re really looking forward to this one in 2013!

Of course, we couldn’t get around it all, in fact our biggest criticism of the event in 2013 was that there was just so much to see and so many people to speak to. Over in the trade show, the experts showed off their products including surprise guest Bobbie Weiner – legendary makeup artist with credits such as The Walking Dead and Titanic to her belt to name just a few. We felt like we could’ve talked to her for hours. A familiar face to the event, it was a pleasure to speak to Paul Davies of Tollbooth Music – one of our favourite speakers of ScareCON 2012. Another favourite at the trade show were the guys at Haunted Lantern – a clever product which we hope to be seeing more of. To mention everyone would take forever but with such a friendly atmosphere it’s easy to get lost amongst the stalls!

We took a short break ready to get ready for the evening, the Scareball is one of the highlights of the event, with the day drawing to a close the emphasis is on party with a capital P! Everyone makes an effort to get dressed in some unique and inventive costumes. The night is kicked off by an impressive demo from the Haunted Lantern crew, before the weird and wonderful “Gorelesue” show is brought to life on stage in front of our very eyes. A mixture of magic, comedy and dance plays out and is a fantastic way to end the day. The party continued with everyone dancing into the early hours.

But it didn’t end there for us! Whilst most of the guests heading back to their comfortable, cosy hotels we had signed up to take part in The Vigil – the newest part of the event. In previous years ScareCON has hosted ‘Scarerooms’ but this year took the rulebook and ripped it to shreds. With one massive building to explore, we were sent off in groups to contact the spirits that lay dormant in the shadows of the Ironworks. Throughout the night, bar staff had been briefed on stories from the building’s past which all helped to make for a completely convincing experience and even though I was in on one of the secrets of the evening, I felt terrified from start to finish. So many thing happened and to shorten it all into a paragraph really doesn’t do the experience justice but with the release of ‘Scare Room 5’ – you can see the whole thing here:

Please be aware due to the nature of the video it contains strong language.

ScareCON continues to grow from strength to strength and we can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.