I live in a small town of a population hovering around 6,000. We have a couple grocery stores, a you-know-where supercenter, and, just recently, a Walgreens. There is no where to go in this town other than these places, except for a bowling alley which has the pleasantness of an ashtray. No theaters, no arcades, nothing else. That is why nearly everyone goes to the metro area called Springfield. It is quite a bit bigger and actually has several theaters and some Steak 'n Shakes. The closest we have to a major city other than there would be Branson where entertainers go to end their careers, and Joplin, a town that is basically just a strip of stores and malls. I personally feel that Springfield has more to offer than either of those cities, but that is my opinion.
My main point is that Springfield would be the ideal place for a convention that could reel in these other cities. There are two (as of this post) main conventions, one is G.A.M.E. which is held in the fall, usually around October, and Visioncon which is held around February. The former focuses more on gaming (as in tabletop gaming) while the latter is more of a hodgepodge. I had the opportunity to go to Visioncon this year and I am super glad that I was able to attend 2 out of the 3 days it went on.
I didn't expect much since this is more in the uber conservative belt in the heart of redneck country so most people, or mundanes as we so affectionately call them, would not attend this because to most people this would be seen as a "freak" gathering. Let's be honest, you do have to be strange to go to something like this. A lot of people dress up, they sell things like fake swords and costumes, and we love to geek out about Star Wars or something more obscure, like Warhammer. So in other words, I was not expecting a huge attendance like you see at Comicon or Anime Expo.
Checking in took a bit of time as several people were lined up to pay for their badge. I was already surprised at the number of people alone just waiting to get in that didn't preorder (I didn't preorder because I was unsure whether I would make it in one or two days) with the convention just opening the doors.
The event was held at a hotel that encompassed mainly the first floor. It was a pretty big spread with a couple panel rooms, art room, video gaming room, a LARP room, main lobby for clubs and board gaming, concessions room, film rooms, party rooms, vendor area, and main ballroom. I looked up the events I planned on going to earlier so I had a rough idea what I wanted to see, but I needed to find all the rooms first. Thankfully the first day, which was a Friday, did not have an overwhelming number of people there because most people had jobs during the day.
Of course one of the first things you notice are the attendees themselves. I would say at least half of the people were in some kind of costume or cosplay of some kind. I honestly wouldn't want to do cosplay myself, but I admire others who want to. I was, however, wearing my "Bazinga" shirt which was and still is an effective ice breaker with people.
Unsure of where to go and unknowingly holding a map in the booklet I got I started to wander around. The first place I noticed was the vendor's room, but I skipped it as several people were still setting up. I walked and stumbled onto the first film room. The room showed, as you could guess, films, mainly that nerds/geeks would want to see, like Clash of the Titans, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Alice in Wonderland, among others. I wanted to find the anime room as it was the main room I would attend panels. After wandering around some more, I finally found it tucked away in a random hallway.
After finding that, I wanted to make sure I found the other rooms too because I was having a friend come with me the next day and I wanted to be able to take her to the rooms she wanted to go. I found the panel rooms as well as the art exhibit, but didn't go in because like the vendor's room, they were still setting up. I also found the Best Buy room which was basically an XBOX expo with Marvel vs. Capcom 3 playing on one television and some FPS/random indie games playing on the other. If it were up to me, I would have at least set up another room with a PS3 and Wii. They need a Brawl tournament next time.
After finding my way to the various places, I decided to go back and check out the film room before going to a panel in the anime room. They played an old episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that was ok, but it wasn't the best I had seen. I left after the shorts were off and I went to the anime room which was still showing some Full Metal Panic Fumoffu, a personal favorite of mine. Then the first introduction panel started up with the guy who was organizing the room and guests. I will admit, for a small convention I feel he did an excellent job setting up the anime and panels. The titles were diverse as well as the subject matter in the panels. More on those later.
There is not much else to say about that intro panel other than me getting a free T-Shirt (Corpse Princess!!! I think I may hug it at night only not really) and some free posters. They had one for Summer Wars, a movie I had planned seeing, and Eden of the East: King of Eden which I plan on seeing since I enjoyed the series so much. I left with my loot and went to the vendor's room to see what they had to offer.
The room was filled with diverse merchandise. One table sold comic books and related goods, one sold jewelry, one sold T-Shirts, one sold (dull and fake) swords, one sold anime (headed by the same guy who ran the anime panel/film room) and another sold board games. It was truly a diverse group of vendors with different products that would make any wallet scream. I just browsed and figured if I wanted anything, I can just get it later since I didn't see anything limited except for a foot soldier that I wanted (and I never got).
I should break from my account and say all the vendors, staff, and room monitors were all awesome! They welcomed me, even though I was a stranger and new at this and while I felt awkward about being there by myself, I never felt left out or excluded. They made me feel like one of the group and it was a kind of camaraderie that I haven't felt since I graduated from school or went to my Kansas City trip. Before that I was stressed and while I felt like I had friends, I just missed the atmosphere of welcomeness. Going to the convention changed that.
After browsing the vendors I went out to get some lunch at a nearby restaurant. Then I came back and it was close to time to go to the opening ceremony in the main ballroom.
To be continued