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Paranormal Convention a 'fun-raiser,' tourist draw

Organizers hope to bring 90-100 to St. Helens for weekend


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - A ghoul decorates a parking zone sign on South First Street in St. Helens Old Town. A weekend of Halloween-themed activities is planned for the historic district on Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19.Old Town St. Helens will host what organizers are billing as the inaugural Paranormal Convention next weekend.

The partners behind the event — the Columbia Humane Society, the St. Helens Economic Development Corp. and the St. Helens Tourism Committee — are hoping people will come from outside St. Helens for two days of ghost-themed events, including author talks, a dance with live music and “paranormal investigations” of supposedly haunted Old Town buildings.

“It’s designed to bring 100 people into the community, keep them here for three days, have them leave their money here,” said Dean Cox, the humane society’s executive director.

Cox said Jeannine “JJ” Duehren, a fellow member of SHEDCO, came up with the idea for the event as a fundraiser for the humane society. Duehren said she prefers the term “funraiser,” as she wants to both bring in money for the St. Helens-based animal shelter and entertain people.

“The goal of the Paranormal Convention is to once again just highlight some of the really interesting, quirky things about St. Helens, such as the fact that most of the buildings in Old Town are haunted,” Duehren said.

By breaking up the two-day convention with a number of events — such as the “Spirit of Halloweentown Mayor’s Ball and Costume Contest,” which Duehren said she expects to draw 200 to 300 people, and a zombie parade and dog walk, in which people can dress themselves and their dogs up for a stroll through St. Helens, according to Cox — Duehren said St. Helens will be a “destination for Halloween” for all ages.

Tickets are only being sold to adults over the age of 21. The itinerary for the Paranormal Convention includes several adult events, such as the ball at the Elks Lodge and a tasting at Ye Ol’ Grog Distillery Friday evening.

Not all events will be age-restricted. Cox said children are welcome at the zombie parade Saturday afternoon and movie night at the Columbia Theatre Saturday evening.

The convention was originally scheduled to include a Sunday brunch and presentation by “investigators” on paranormal activity in St. Helens, but Duehren said that has been cut from the itinerary and the investigators’ findings may be discussed next year.

The Columbia Humane Society will be selling commemorative T-shirts for $25 apiece, part of its fundraising efforts during the convention.

“Conservatively, I think it’s going to be a $5,000 weekend ... which is going to make it the second-biggest fundraiser of the year,” Cox predicted.

Convention tickets range from $20 to $85, depending on how many events attendees want to go to. They are available online or at the door. Those coming from out of town will receive discounted rates to stay at the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn on Highway 30.

While Duehren said she hopes to have 90 people attend the convention, with more coming to events like the ball and parade, she said about 20 tickets have been sold as of Wednesday, Oct. 9.

“We’re anticipating this year’s event to be pretty small,” Duehren said, adding, “When you do these first-year events ... it’s always kind of a learning curve for everybody.”

For more information about the Paranormal Convention or the events surrounding the Spirit of Halloweentown festivities, organizers are asking interested people to visit the Spirit of Halloweentown Facebook page at www.facebook.com/halloweentown.OR.