Monster technology

By Dave Schwab

San Diego’s epic Halloween event is driven by three-dimensional themes and digital handiwork

San Diego Monster Bash will rampage through the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village Saturday, Oct. 28, as Downtown San Diego morphs into one of Southern California’s largest outdoor Halloween block parties.

The annual fall scarefest, which draws more than 15,000 partygoers annually from every state in the nation, offers an evening of nightmarish delight, stacked music lineups, five hellishly themed stages, and epic partying. It usually sells out.

(Photo courtesy McFarlane Productions)

This is the 17th installment of Monster Bash, which is set this year to include even more interactive experiences, inspired design, and over-the-top performances than ever before.

Transformed over the years, Monster Bash — which in its humble beginnings took up only one block of Fifth Avenue — was initially developed as an alternative to Rocktoberfest. Fast forward 17 years and this spooktacular event is now identified as San Diego’s largest Halloween-themed outdoor block party, and has expanded from one to eight city blocks.

Monster Bash has become infamous for its outrageous costume contest, which attracts the most creative costumers and makeup artists in the region, who compete for big prizes and bragging rights. This year the grand prize is $2,500 in cash, with lesser amounts going to second and third place, as well as prize money for several honorable mentions.

(Photo courtesy McFarlane Productions)

This year’s revamped contest features a dedicated contest stage, a panel of local celebrity judges, a new voting system, streamlined registration, and more opportunities to win with tiered prizes. Monster Bash attendees are encouraged to wear their most incredible costumes to showcase and compete.

If Monster Bash impresses the vast crowds in attendance, it’s largely attributed to Dave Howell, the event’s director of audio, visual and lighting. It’s Howell’s responsibility to create the look and feel of Monster Bash every year and he said evolving technology continues to transform the Halloween event year after year.

“I’ve been doing this since 1982,” Howell said. “When I started, everything was overhead and slide projectors, and now it’s digital laser projectors, LED displays and digital audio — completely different. It really expands the creative window you can work with.”

(Photo courtesy McFarlane Productions)

Using less power than ever before, Howell said the new technology allows him to “add more elements without using more energy,” and revelers in attendance will enjoy first-hand the enhanced experience that comes with technological innovation.

“It gives you flexibility,” he said. “With the ability to map pixels on your projector, you aren’t required to have a square surface anymore; it can be whatever you want it to be. You can bend it, shape it, put it in patterns … you can take a visual canvas and make it look any way you want to. It really helps enhance the creative freedom that you have.”

Howell works with McFarlane Productions, the event’s promoters, and he began conferring with them early on about themes, so that each stage can be unique in its three-dimensional layout.

(Photo courtesy McFarlane Productions)

“Laurel [McFarlane] and her team come up with different themed areas, and we take that and try to make that come across in the set design and the visuals that are going to be on the screens,” Howell said. He promises the scary clowns will “freak everybody out” this year.

Mapping out the staging and all the special effects is a six-to-eight-month process, Howell said.

“It’s a fun event, we love doing it,” he said.

Monster Bash ticket prices are $50 through Oct. 19, $55 through Oct. 19 and $55 through Oct. 27. A Monster Bash wristband gets the wearer food and drink specials and free cover at more than 20 different participating restaurants and bars in the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village. You must be 21 or older and have a valid photo ID to enter.

(Photo courtesy McFarlane Productions)

For those looking to upgrade their experience, a limited number of VIP passes are also available. VIP perks include easy access entry, six free drinks (two at the VIP bar, four outside the venue), entry into the Black Butterfly VIP lounge, $1 off all drinks at the VIP bar, upgraded restrooms, and a free giveaway item.

VIP tickets will sell out, so get them early.

Monster Bash takes place Saturday, Oct. 28, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Proceeds benefit the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation and East Village Association, which promote, protect, and preserve the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village through advocacy, community relations, and promotional programs.

For more ticket or event information, visit or call McFarlane Promotions, Inc. at 619-233-5008.

—Dave Schwab can be reached at

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