I found images of the loose caboose festival, not very groovy, old grandmas and sturdy sandles wandering the streets where people are standing by very small displays under tents. Church groups, vineyards, arts and crafts.
The jonesboro mall photos don't look very exciting either.
Still in one posting you have mentioned both airbrush shop and haunted houses. My first haunt was the excesses from my airbrush business. We did a halloween party for a custom motorcycle shop and my building was the odd off season maze you had to go through to see the air brush guy. I used all the haunt things as demos of what an airbrush can do and certainly as word of mouth that you could see all of these weird things any time of year and talk about getting your motorcycle sheetmetal customized or any item you could carry in detailed.
In other words the haunt was the hobby and a lost leader promotion and the air brush skills made money. Most jobs were $175 to $400 in a day or so and used about 50 cents in paint. The motorcycle halloween parties got pretty extravegant and were promotional for the custom motorcycle shop and my air brush offerings.
Still in reality all of those things in a town of 85,000 people were about my 3rd and 4th jobs for actual income. I see Jonesboro is a town of 65,000 people so it may prove to be even more of a challenge.
I had spent more than 5 years building up the props and haunt condition before it every hit the streets. Prior to that it was just an odd collection of stuff.
The secret there was not doing Tshirts but, more expensive motorcycle paint jobs. Alas I looked in the Joneboro area and there is only one custom motorcycle shop and it looks kind of rough.
In a similar story, the motorcycle shop guys wife went on a psychotic drug induced bender, just like you describe ending in divorce and resulting in my shop I rented being sold out from under me. So the haunt went to do charities. We got a much more expensive shop. In a way you are lucky everything kind of revieled it's ugly head right off the bat instead of having 12 years worth of stuff that had to go somewhere immediately taking a month to tear down and move 3 businesses.
Still getting real, starting over, the air brush business can fit in one carry tool box, actually it does to this day and you can go to any studio anywhere and hook up to their air compressor and make money. A haunt that can actually make more money than your first effort requires about 2 semi loads of stuff to be something that consistently brings excitement and can pretty much advertise itself. Whereas the customers are looking for where it will be rather than you having to market and rely on marketing to bring in the people. Plain and simple, two semis worth or storage garages full of stuff cost money or literally a decade to produce while making money somehow, paying rent and so on.
Eventually years and years of marketing do finally kick in and thing go times 10. In the first several years or up to a decade you can't make it a gamble that paying rent or paying anything is dependent on how many people will show up theoretically. Everything has to be made, paid for, a manageable expense.
The reality is many do not get out of that 800 to 1000 people in attendance and usually quit for some more responcible life reason. So the budget in a small town is not $150,000, it is more like $8,000.
Even all the haunted house facades and scenic design work we did, was actually just another application for someone with an airbrush to make money doing something. It can be signage, carnivals, circus trailers, photo back drops, faux interior embellishment, fine art, Automotive, lazer tag, water park, amusement park, haunted house work. Then you progress from air brushes to things that are giant airbrushes shooting concrete and overlays. You can be an airbrush guy for mask makers and prop makers, have the skills to do the faux finishes. I already see you can do these things. It is more the focus of making things to make money and the haunt is something that might make money someday but is the large sample board of your skills. You may have to show off $20,000 worth of haunted house stuff you made to get a $200 job applying a custom paint design.
One of the bitches I hear from the critics is you can't do everything. You have to do everything because it isn't buy a bunch of crap and you will be rich, it is show off your personal skill and it brings you work. The haunted house isn't your sole income, it is the grand conversation piece to sell upscale jobs that might be $2500 or $4,000. A real life portfolio of stuff you can see rather than some photo album.
I'm not going to be able to spend much time on Hauntworld for several months so if I don't respond right away, I will be in and out. I have had too many commercial jobs come up at one time. Last year it seems no company wanted to do anything until they knew who the president would be and so they all piled up now. Now everyone wants their $12,000 job done before World War 3 breaks out or something.
It all started with a good airbrush and a pager.
Another fabulous post from the U.S.Department of Wild Imaginings, now in spectaclar stereo, sponsored by the Adhesives and Sealants Council, suggesting ways to stick things together since the 1800s. Not fabulous in a gay way. Your results may vary. Illinois residents add 8% sales tax. These posts have been made by professional post makers, do not try this type of posting on your own without extensive training, lovely assistants and a trusty clown horn.