There’s something wonderful about attending a comicon for the first ever time. You have no preconceived notions based upon prior years’ attendance and you have no idea what you’re walking into. Such was the case this year when I travelled to Niagara Falls, ONT, Canada to attend the Niagara Falls Comic Con.
I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to make this one because I’d have to leave less than a week after returning from Phoenix, but the gods were smiling down upon me and on Thursday, I headed to Niagara Falls. One bonus of going to cover an event such as this? When you’re being interrogated by the Canadian Border Patrol and you say comicon to one who just happens to be a nerd, everything changes. Instead of do you have anything illegal, it’s do you know who the guests will be? What are the hours? Where is it located? Best border crossing ever!
Now, what I didn’t stop to check was which days the con actually happened! I’m so used to three day events, that I drove over on Thursday, expecting to be at the con on Friday. Nope! Turns out that it’s a two day only event. Luckily for me, some of my closest friends live in Niagara Falls so I got to spend the day (and non-con time) hanging out with them!
Saturday dawned bright and early..reallly early because I had to head to Rob and Nicole’s house so that I could catch a ride with Rob and gang down to the convention center. This was an experience that I’ve never had before and I have to say that the morning chatter and company was a pleasant change from heading in by myself! Since Rob was helping head up the volunteer corps, I got to hang out in the lobby and get a real behind the scenes look in how things were run. While there were certainly things that I would change, everything went incredibly smoothly and I was impressed with the two ladies that I saw making sure everyone knew what was going on.
Once inside, I think everybody was blown away by the turn out. I watched the volunteer staff whip into action though and I have to say that I was very impressed by how they all handled the unexpected entry delays and the need to shift lines. Every single volunteer that I came in contact with was friendly, outgoing and was working hard at making this a fantastic event.
Before I tell you about the rest of the awesomeness for the weekend, I do want to touch upon a few things that I feel could have been done better.
1) This is called a comic con, but most of the guests were actually in the entertainment field and had nothing to do with comics. I’m one of those fussy people that feel like a comic con should be more comics than entertainment or at least have a balance. To have more entertainment makes it an entertainment expo. Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine and it may not bother anyone else.
2) The floor layout. – For some reason, they had the food vendors in a rather awkward spot right next to artist alley. I wish I had a floor sketch to show you. This really needed to either be in the lobby or in one corner of the room so that when it got busy, it wasn’t blocking the aisles and preventing people from actually getting up to the tables.
3) Training/Preplanning – I’m not going to be as harsh about this as I am with more experienced conventions because this was only the third or fourth year for this con and I do know that there is a learning curve. I also know though that you do need to learn from your mistakes. While walking the floor, I spoke to numerous vendors who said that the whole check in process was a bit of a mess. Nobody knew who was supposed to be where and there wasn’t anyone there to check them in on the docks. I noticed this same problem with the volunteers. These are all issues that should have been nailed down. The volunteer teams should have been all given assignments and given some training on how to handle those assignments.
4) Wristbands – Okay, we all know this is a pet peeve of mine. I despise wristbands. They’re cheap (which is why cons go with them) but more importantly, they’re so unsanitary. Have you ever seen the gunk that builds up on one of those? *shudders* Plus, this con had gone with a particularly cheap wristband that snapped off with very little effort (mine broke when I caught it on a door handle) and they weren’t allowing anyone with broken wristbands back into the event.
I have one or two issues as a press member, but those are better taken up with the convention since they don’t affect regular attendees…Now, you’ve heard my bad…let’s focus on some good.
1) The convention location. – I love an event with plenty of doorways and one that’s wide enough to allow traffic to mill about without everyone running each other over. This place easily handled that.
2) The guests themselves. – While small, this convention did a good job of not only bringing in some wonderful guests but also making sure that they were set up so that people would get a chance to meet their
favorites. The guests that I got to speak to all seemed happy and were friendly.
3) Variety in Vending – There’s nothing worse than attending a convention where every single table is selling the same exact product. I loved the fact that I could buy everything from caramel corn to comics, from jewelry to jazzy etched glasses. There really was something for everyone and I applaud the planners for creating that variety.
So, that’s the rundown, but I know you’re waiting for the bottom line…Would I attend again? Yes. Without a doubt. I’m eager to see how they take the challenges from this year and turn them into successes in coming years. I would encourage them to put themselves out there more and really draw in the comic community. When I spoke about the event prior, not many had ever heard of it. I think it’s time to change that. With any luck, you’ll see me slipping through the crowds in 2014.