There was still sunlight when I arrived at the Elgin Safe Zone for their annual Nightmare on Chicago Street this past Saturday evening. This year I’d be attending alone as most of my friends were back home watching the Chicago Cubs play in a historic baseball game that would see them heading to the World Series for the first time in over seventy years. Under those circumstances, their absence was understandable…and what better reason to skip a zombie Apocalypse than for the possibility of watching Hell freeze over instead? In my world, however, the Nightmare on Chicago Street IS the World Series and there was no place I’d rather be.
It’s been over a month and I’m still not sure what to make of horror host, Svengoolie’s, first 2016 appearance. On the surface it sounded like it was tailor made for me; my favorite horror host showing up at a fundraiser revolving around my favorite animals – elephants. The goal was to raise enough cash to help a lucky young lady named Desire’ travel to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand to work with them. I suppose I should’ve guessed that a unique experience such as this would result in an equally extraordinary send off and that was definitely the case as I stepped into the VFW Hall in Summit, Illinois. It was a large room with a crowd of people, someone dressed up as an elephant, Svengoolie and his producer (Jim Roche) at a signing area, the “King of Geeks” Elliott Serrano, and a big wrestling ring in the middle.
It was a chilly December evening when I headed up to Elgin, Illinois to experience their annual “Krampus Krawl.” After seeing it advertised during the city’s Nightmare on Chicago Street, I knew it was something I had to experience first hand, and I’m so glad that I did! I mean, seriously, just because Halloween is over doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy a few more sinister events before the year is out. This particular one was brought to Elgin by John LaFleur and sponsored by Side Street Studios whom I’ve mentioned before. Their shop served as Svengoolie’s headquarters during the last “Nightmare” and I swear if I lived anywhere near Elgin, I’d be signing up for just about every workshop and art class they have to offer! Though the celebration of Krampuslauf is relatively new to American culture, the recent success of the film, Krampus, along with other events popping up around the country show that it’s quickly gaining its own spot on our busy December calendars. The festival originated in the Alpine regions of Europe and honors the darker version of St. Nicholas; a horned creature named Krampus whose job isn’t to reward the good kids but punish the naughty ones. With our culture’s shift towards more self-entitled and less, shall we say, respectful children, one can’t help but wonder if the sudden rise of Krampus over the past decade is much of a coincidence. Regardless of whatever possible sociological commentary it may carry (if any) it’s definitely proving to be a lot of fun for us naughty adults!
Here’s how the night unfolded…
Svengoolie was given new headquarters at this year’s Nightmare on Chicago Street, and a classier one at that. Side Street Studio Arts is yet another reason to love the city of Elgin, Illinois; providing residents an opportunity to express their creative side and a venue to display their work. Consequently, the national TV horror host would find himself sitting amid sinister, yet beautiful, works of art; all part of their Something Wicked: A Dark Arts Exhibit. The line outside to see him started forming almost as soon as the event began and for good reason as he’d only be signing for an hour before hosting the annual costume contest
The seeds of this event were actually sewn during Svengoolie’s appearance at “The Squared Circle” (covered HERE). I mentioned in that post meeting a couple of zoo keepers from The Lincoln Park Zoo; one of whom, Marisa, had arrived with local Chicago Red-eye writer, Elliott Serano. Elliott’s a fellow Svengoolie fan and had just written a big story on the host. He’d brought Marisa along that night so she could sign folks up for her zoo’s AAZK Chapter’s (American Association of Zoo Keepers) “Bowling for Rhinos” with Sven as one of their celebrity guests. Svengoolie has graciously assisted my own Brookfield Zoo AAZK chapter with our annual Vital Grounds fundraiser (providing opportunities for the New England Terror Dave, David Albaugh, to meet him as covered HERE and HERE) and accepted her invitation…even if appearing only as his mild-mannered alter ego, Rich Koz.
This past Saturday was a day I both dreaded and anticipated with a flurry of events (none of which I wanted to miss) all converging at once. For starters, it was the weekend of G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) which I’ve attended faithfully with my kids since 2004. In fact, if you’re a Japanese monster fan, your entire calendar year pretty much revolves around it. Though it offers plenty of activities throughout the weekend, Saturday evenings are known for being the show’s climax with their highly anticipated costume contest.