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Get To Know Melissa Carbone: Founder Of Tailgate Fest & The Haunted Hayride

Check out the exclusive interview with Melissa Carbone and learn some tips and tricks behind creating live events for both horror and country music fans!

Photo: Haunted Hayride, Scott Feinblatt

Entrepreneur Melissa Carbone is an avid Halloween lover who creates, owns and produces live attractions in the horror genre. Her company, Ten Thirty One Productions, kicked into high gear in 2013 after receiving a $2 Million investment from ABC’s Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban. Carbone’s production company has founded numerous attractions, including the country music festival Tailgate Fest, the Haunted Hayrides in Los Angeles and New York and the Great Horror Campout.

In the spirit of the season, we sat down with the entrepreneur to discuss Tailgate Festival and the popular Haunted Hayride. Check out the exclusive interview below and learn some tips and tricks behind creating live events for both horror and country music fans!


Photo: Melissa Carbone, Chelsea Lauren

What prompted you to create Tailgate Festival for the SoCal country music fans?

I had been embedded in Tailgating culture for years and kept hearing this one unanimous sentiment, which was no one wanted the tailgate to stop when the show started. We had these perfect little paradise set-up’s around our vehicles with the best food, best drinks, our music, friends, and games. When the time would come to pack it all up and shove everything in your pockets and go into a venue to eat nasty hot dogs and drink warm beer, it was like an ice cold glass of water being thrown in your face. I decided the fan experience could be better and provide the best of all worlds if we just brought the stages truck-side, so to speak. So that’s exactly what I did.

What considerations went into booking performers at Tailgate Festival?

We wanted to create the soundtrack to a country music lovers life. When you tailgate, jamming out to your faves is part of it, so I wanted all the music coming from the stage to be songs they all knew. Artists that had at least three big hits were our target and we ended up with an entire line-up of artists who had a minimum of five. It worked out very well. The second piece of criteria was creating the right vibe of energy, party and enthusiasm, and man did that stage have a full cup of adrenaline. It was next level energy.

Do you have any future plans involving the country music scene aside from Tailgate Festival?

That is a resounding 100% yes. The country music scene is vast and very open, and we are ready to create things and continue to grow within that world. We’re gonna keep popping some tops and dropping Tailgates for many years to come.

Moving on to the spooky side of the season, let’s talk all-things Halloween. What inspired you to get into the haunted house attraction business?

As with Tailgate Fest, I saw a lane that was missing in the Halloween world. In Los Angeles, a piece of the Halloween season that was missing was that small-town Americana, fall festivity in the woods type of event, so I decided to build one. 10 years later, here we are.

What elements do you believe make for the best scares and why?

The best scares typically begin with the environment in which you choose to build, that’s why we chose the woods of Griffith Park. In LA, we predominately eat, shop and go to movies. I wanted to take the typical concrete jungle dwelling Los Angeleno and stick them in the woods at night and ruin them. The environment is our number one most important character.

We’re going to do everything in our power to submerge you into our world in a cerebral way from the moment you get here until the moment you leave. At the LA Haunted Hayride, you shouldn’t be thinking about the crappy day at work you just had or the pile of dishes in the sink waiting for you at home. All you should be thinking is, “what is coming around this next corner to annihilate me". That’s if we do our jobs right.

Photo: Haunted Hayride, Scott Feinblatt

What sets your attraction apart from other similar experiences?

We have three very distinct unique characteristics. The environment in which we exist will always be a first of it’s kind in any given market. In this case, the woods! We’ll also never build a model that has already been built. The hayride was the first of it’s kind. Lastly, we will keep you in our narrative from beginning to end, never plucking your brain out to create the largest degree of suspension of disbelief possible. Our world is magical and the only place in LA that has that traditional fall feeling of Halloween from a small town somewhere else.

Photo: Haunted Hayride, Scott Feinblatt

Do the haunts change yearly? If so, where do you draw the inspiration to do so?

Our haunts do change yearly. Our inspiration comes from everything all over the world, from horror to non-horror. We draw from things like acrobatics, the arts, entertainment, weird hobbies, odd vacations, so basically everything.

Are your attractions suitable for all ages? 

Our attractions are suitable for all ages, although we have an eight and older mantra. At the end of the day it is up to the parents to know their kids “pain” threshold, so to speak! Haha. We do not have any set age restrictions, and have had guests of all ages, from 1 to 80 years old!

What advice do you have for the scaredy-cats who are afraid to partake in your haunted attractions? 

I would say to absolutely come and try it. Walk into your fear and you will probably end up having one of the best nights of your life.

Any must-know tips for fans to do a DIY haunted experience at home?

My advice for DIY haunts and haunted attractions at home are to be creative, but most importantly keep it fun. Have fun building your attraction. Everyone has his or her own aesthetic and it’s important to do what feels good to you. At the end of the day, you want people to have fun.

Get ready for this year’s frightful Los Angeles Haunted Hayride with the sneak preview below!

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