A paranormal conference that is full of unity, new adventures, fun, and discoveries is what every event manager hopes to do!
Although the weather was a bit "wintery", the 2020 Rochester Winter ParaFest, the crowds came pouring in. It was almost like they were looking for shelter from a blistery weekend … or perhaps looking for a chance to come together as a family after such a long frosty season. This was one of the first events of the year, whose purpose was to gather those like-minded members of a community, moved by a purpose, moved to be together again.
The purpose, in its design, was to bring the paranormal community together. Its other dedication was very humbling. Proceeds from all hard work were to benefit a very special organization in the Greater Rochester area, Veteran’s Outreach Center’s Services.
Haunted Journeys was proud to be a part of this. At first, I thought that it would be a typical event where we all got together and shared spooky stories or experiences with those that made us feel a bit unsettled or a bit different. This was, by far, not the experience that I felt. Our 2020 first gathering of the paranormal field was special in so many ways.
Lectures Scheduled including presentation of our World’s Largest Ghost Hunt
When I departed and headed towards the Rochester Airport, I knew everything would be fine for our para community for the rest of the year. I left with a sense that this field is special, important and contributing to our world's pulse. I felt inspired.
After a few days, I as Haunted Journeys, spent some time chatting with Ted VanSon. Ted is the event’s founder, author, radio producer and paranormal investigator for over 34 years. 2020 celebrated its sixth year. I wanted to hear his personal reflection on what occurred just a week ago. Knowing Ted, I knew his story would be sincere and gripping. I was not disappointed.
Ted: “My biggest surprise was beating our goal of funds raised for the Veterans Outreach Center, Inc. We originally hoping we would raise $1,500. To our surprise, we raised over $2,000. The people kept coming and giving.
A total of over $2,000 was raised for the Veterans Outreach Center
"They all wanted to be a part of not just the event, but of the purpose. This made it very special. We had so many door prizes from donations and people just continued to contribute with so much enthusiasm.”
Ted: "There were many special moments at the event, but there are a few that still stand out in my memory. Let’s start with Buddy the Bigfoot. What a special contribution he provided. Not only did he entertained us all during the entire event, but he went over and beyond his duty by bringing joy to many just before and right after the event."
Buddy the BigFoot with Maria Schmidt from Haunted Journeys
Ted goes on ... "Buddy actually made the day of a special child, Wyatt, my Godson. He's a special 7-year-old boy with autism and social anxiety. But even so, all he wanted to do is meet Buddy. When he did his eyes lit up and so did our hearts!"
Buddy the Big Foot with Ted VanSon and his Godson Wyatt
"In addition, Buddy joined the celebrities of Naked and Afraid the day before the event to visit the purpose of our event, the Veteran’s Outreach Center’s Stars & Stripes Flog Store. Here we saw where all our efforts were serving, bringing life to our purpose.
"I will never forget having the Worlds Witches Dance perform for us. It was so mesmerizing, that even Trent Nielson, from Naked and Afraid, joined in the witchy experience!"
Worlds Witches Dance taking part in the Rochester Winter ParaFest
Ted continues, "But above all, the public’s response to the Veterans Outreach Center’s resource table was very special. People received a lot of information on their services and many others contributed to their cause."
Ted: “We decided not to tease Mother Nature too much next year, and push out the event to the last week in winter. The event will be held on the weekend of March 13-14, 2021.
“We want to grow, becoming bigger and even better. We want to assure you that we stay with our format and its purpose, but with a higher impact. We will also be formatting the vendor hall to be more expansive for all types of interest within the paranormal. We also wish to bring more attractions, speakers and product vendors!"
Celebrating 2020 and getting ready for 2021 Rochester Winter ParaFest
Ted: “Hands down, it was witnessing the possibly of Paraunity coming to reality. Everybody came together. We all laughed together, share stories together, and helped each other out."
Jack Kenna and Haunted Journeys’ Maria Schmidt taking the wind out of Chris DiCesare
Ted continues, “So strong was that everyone, even the celebrities, contributed their time and even their travel expenses to be there. They all believed in what we do and our purpose.
In addition, the neighboring communities of Avon and Geneseo in New York came together to make sure this fund-raiser was a success. The Avon Inn provided the space for the VIP Dinner on Friday night. In addition, they provided rooms for some of our guests. What a treat since this is one of the most haunted spaces in the area!
The beautiful Avon Inn is considered oneo of the most haunted properties in the area. Read about this spectral place.
Geneseo, New York's Valley Oak Event Center were also a sponsor, providing an incredible space for the event. The vendors, celebrities and attendees were well taken care of with their warm hospitality and grill to keep us well fed. They accomodated for our growth for our increased vendor table demands. They understood, if we succeeded, the community succeeded.
All this support was incredibly moving. When was the last time this was ever witnessed with such enthusiasm and dedication?”
(Not too often …. Now I understand why I left for the airport so happy, so content.)
Haunted Journeys’ Maria Schmidt celebrating a great weekend with
Melanie Rauscher and Trent Nielson from Naked and Afraid!
(Both shared their paranormal experiences with attendees.)
The 2020 Celebrity Line-Up!
Kudos for volunteering their time and resources to making in impact on our Paranormal Community and the lives of our Veterans via the Veterans Outreach Center, Inc. (Click on each of their photo’s to get their information)
Founded locally in 1973 by returning Vietnam Veterans, today’s Veterans Outreach Center remains anchored in our community and offers a comprehensive portfolio of supportive services designed to meet the needs of veterans and their families.
The Veterans Outreach Center offers assistance to local Veterans with Employment Assistance, Job Training, Legal Counseling, Morale Center, Residential Program, Veteran & Family Support Services, and Veterans Treatment Court.
Through the generosity of its community (such as the purpose of the 2020 Rochester Winter Parafest, all of these programs and services are provided free of charge.
Trent Nielson & Buddy the BigFoot at the Veterans Outreach Center’s Flag Store