Six am is a horrible time to be awake and I am glad to say I don’t need to do it often. On Friday I found myself up at this awful hour and yes, getting dressed up to be Twilight Sparkle at Fan Expo 2012. I’ve never been to a large convention as a fan and I was completely excited about hitting Fan Expo with the Fist of Justice in my first ever cosplay. We were lucky and my store had two extra retailer passes so not only did we get in free, but we got in early too.
Upon our arrival we made our way up and down the series of escalators in the Convention Center and saw people already waiting in line over an hour before the show opened to get in. A whole floor was dedicated just to this, but it seemed odd that they were only doing ticket sales in one small area, the rest of the floor was empty.
Inside was awesome, they changed things around, artist alley was shifted, and I’d been told booths had been moved around to make larger aisles. With no people in them this seemed true. When the people started arriving that’s when things changed. It was a slow build of people but after about an hour the entire convention hall was packed with people. In some areas.
This was my first complaint about Fan Expo. They did move around the space but it only kind of helped. Some areas were packed, and ten feet away there was plenty of open space. We got yelled at to keep moving by one volunteer, but ten feet away three volunteers were watching as a crowd of people jammed together and stopped and they didn‘t say a word. There are still bottlenecks in the dealer room, and it can make moving around hard.
The second issue was the volunteers. I’ve worked Fan Expo before. It’s busy and stressful, but still pretty fun as long as you know what you’re in for. These volunteers for the most part didn’t. They didn’t seem to have any training or preparation. While I waited in line for Tony (Candyman) Todd’s panel a group of volunteers actually started loudly arguing about which way the line should go. They eyeballed the line and decided when to stop letting people in line and a lot of people walked away disappointed. They wouldn’t even let Mike come over and tell me he was going to a panel in the next room. When we finally got inside the room was more than half empty. I was less than impressed.
We foolishly didn’t bring lunch to Fan Expo and waited in line for pizza. For twenty dollars we got two slices, two bags of chips, and two cans of pop. If I wanted water instead it was extra of course. At an actual Pizza Pizza restaurant I could have gotten two medium pizzas and six cans of pop for what we paid at the Convention Center.
And speaking of spending money I came to the con expecting to spend a lot of money! We hit the bank machine the night before and I was ready to spend! And I… didn’t. I was hoping to find hard to find toys and collectibles and I didn’t. It was the exact same stuff as last year at almost every dealer booth and I was quite disappointed. I bought an Adventure Time t-shirt (none available in ladies sizes, by the way) and a fascinator to wear to a wedding from artist alley.
We left at five and I was tired, grumpy, and disappointed. My experience was pretty lacklustre, but what took the cake was the stories I started hearing on Saturday. I worked at my store all weekend and we had several people come in who were turned away after three hours in line because the show was oversold and the fire department shut down entrance. People who had paid weren’t allowed back in if they left for any reason. Sounds like echoes of two years ago when people were very unhappy with Fan Expo.
That said I did have fun being dressed up, even if my horn got broken. Everyone’s costumes were great and I loved being asked for photos. I didn’t deal with anyone who was too touchy, rude, or less than pleasant. The fans were awesome and were the best part of the whole convention. I even took part in a pony gathering and casual photo shoot!
In summary, Fan Expo left a bad taste in my mouth. The organizers didn’t do a good job, they oversold tickets again, staff needed better training, and the dealers in general didn’t bring anything new to the table. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and a lot of people worked very hard to bring this convention together and the other fans were awesome, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to go back next year.