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Biting into Covington
Fans turn out in droves for Vampire event on The Square
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They had expected about 300 people to show up in downtown Covington the night before Halloween.

Instead between 500-600 Vampire Stalkers, or fans of the hit TV show “The Vampire Diaries,” roamed the streets of Covington. Fans from as far away as the United Kingdom turned out to the Square and the Historic Courthouse for the showing of the Halloween episode of the CW series at the Historic Covington Courthouse Oct. 30.

That’s, in part, because the event was timed to take place right before the opening of EyeCon, a Vampire Diaries fan convention held at the Sheraton Atlanta, Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.

“We wanted to bring in that Atlanta traffic for the Vampire Stalker tour as well as to shop in our downtown stores, then watch the Halloween episode of ‘The Vampire Diaries’ at 8 p.m. [that night],” said Jenny McDonald, tourism director for the Covington-Newton Chamber of Conference. “We told fans to come to Covington between 6-6:45 p.m. to enjoy shopping downtown,”

On the Newton County “GoCovington” social media platforms, fans were told that the first 300 attendees would be seated in the courthouse.

“People started lining up at 6 p.m.,” she said. “The Newton County deputies and I guesstimated that between 500 and 600 people came, 90 percent of them from out of county and out of state.”

Following the screening, Jessarae Robitaille (whose half-brother, Steven McQueen, stars as Jeremy Gilbert “The Vampire Diaries”) and Chase Coleman (Oliver on the spin-off “The Originals”) performed an acoustic concert on the rooftop of The Mystic Grill from 9-11 p.m.

“It was a great event,” said Angi Beszborn, co-owner of The Mystic Grill. “We pulled in people from all over the world. We had people here from the U.K., from Germany, and from other states.”

The event, she said, not only brings in people from all over the world, those people go back and tell their friends “what a great place this is and how good our food is,” she said. “They’re all social media people and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback. Everyone said, ‘Thank you so much. We had a great time’.

“It was nice to be able to do something to support local tourism,” she said. “We know how important that is.”

The Mystic Grill was one of the vendors listed on a punch card that fans could buy. Other vendors were Bradley’s Bar-B-Que, Bread & Butter, Brendale’s, O’Hannah’s Hair Studio, Square Perk, Tropical Nails Salon, Scoops, Southern Heartland Art, Vampire Stalkers/On Location, Shelvie Jean, The Alley; Spires and The Cork Boutique.

Shoppers received a star on their punch card if they purchased something at one of the participating stores. If they earned three stars, they were entered in a raffle, McDonald said.

The raffle drawing was postponed because, McDonald said, fans were so excited by the presence of some of the stars from show and its spin-off, “The Originals,” “we didn’t get a chance to do the raffle, so we’re going to stream the drawing at GoCovington and the Vampire Stalkers web sites.”

The drawing will be held Friday and winners will be shipped prizes.”

The actors Michale Malarkey (Enzo on “The Vampire Diaries”) and Coleman plus four child actors from “The Originals” judged the costume contest, she said.

The shops and restaurants participating in the event reported a constant flow of people through their doors, many who gladly parted with their money to buy special vampire-inspired items.

“We sold out of the Vampire Bites beads we carried,” said Linda Richardson, manager of Spires Interiors and Gifts. The beads, she said, were sets of teeth with drops of blood made by a local artist. “Each one was different.”

At The Cork, shoppers were able to sample four different types of Vampire Wine made at the California Vampire Vineyards. “People enjoyed the wines,” said Michelle Floyd, manager. “We paired them with Vampire Bites, a Chambourcin jelly-filled cup cake made especially for us by a bakery in Helena. We had a good response from people from out of town and from our local residents.”

Andrea Smith, owner of Square Perk, said the flow of traffic into the coffee shop continued well past the 9 p.m. closing time. “The shift manager called me at 10 p.m. and she he couldn’t close the doors because people were still streaming in.

“It helped boost our numbers for the end of October,” she added. “Our sales were 40 to 50 percent over our normal sales. They [the event sponsors] did a great job of bringing people to the area.”

Scoops manager Carolyn Love said the influx of fans was a great idea to bring new business into town, and she enjoyed the customers who came in that night. “They love banana pudding ice cream and milkshakes, which are loved by one of the actors [Ian Somerhalder, who plays “Damon” on “The Vampire Diaries”].”

Even for those shops not participating in the event, the evening’s turnout was appreciated. Bernice Kinsey, manager of Your Sister’s Closet, said that, while she didn’t have many sales that night, shoppers did get a chance to see what the clothing store stocked. The event, she said, “attracted some ‘I’ll be back’ customers, and it let people know we’re here and what we carry.”

The event was the result of a joint effort by Newton County Tourism and Main Street Covington, said Velinda Wheeles, director of Main Street Covington.

“This was the first collaboration between the two groups and I think it went over phenomenally,” she said. “I knew it was going to be a large crowd, but I was overwhelmed. It was a well run evening and everyone had a great time.
“Hopefully, it’s the first of many events to come,” she said. “When the two groups work together, look what we can accomplish.”