A couple weekends ago I was able to go to Epic Con; a small “geekfest” in it’s second year, though it was the first year I’d heard of it. What made this really exciting to me was the fact that it was being held at Montgomery County Fairgrounds, a mere 20 min from my home. Normally if I want to go to a convention I have to drive an hour away and hope I can find or afford lodging. My only worry at this point was wondering how you run a convention on a fairground in the middle of chilly October.
I got my answer: quite poorly.
When I arrived on day 1, the place was a ghost town with food vendors standing around outside just wanting someone to chat with to quell their boredom. I obliged for a moment before getting whisked into battle by a group with foam weapons. I actually love this group, as I have battled with members a few times before, but for some reason their name won’t stay with me. I really feel terrible that I can’t give them a proper boost here.
Afterward I wandered around to find that all there was aside from that were two small vendor buildings, one with celebrity booths shoved in the back, and a few cars made to look identical to famous movie/TV show cars. While very interesting, I wouldn’t really label it a convention so far.
I must note that I was able to access everything without collecting my badge because they hadn’t even printed them yet. Not even for the vendors or anything. I also discovered that one building was supposed to be an “artist alley” and the other vendor room, with booths in one costing $35 and in the other costing up to $100 for the space. However, apparently upon set-up, the woman behind the convention decided it was first come first serve when it came time to pick your spot.
This means that not only was there no artist alley but that people who pre-paid $35 were often right next to a booth that cost $100+, and that some people who paid the $100+ ended up stuck in an undesirable location. The con is being sued, as of this writing by many special guests who have still not been paid. I later found out first-hand that many of the vendors are not going to come back.
Day 2, Saturday, was pretty fun and a shame I had to leave early to take my son Trick-or-Treating (in my county “beggars night” happens the weekend before Halloween for some reason). I had to get my badge this time, which was a complete joke. All I said was “I’m here for a press pass.” and they ripped off a crappy bit of paper, shoved it haphazardly into it’s clear sleeve and handed it over. No checking who I was representing, or even verifying who I was. Anyone could have said what I said and gotten in for free the rest of the con. I brought my son this time, and the first thing he did was wail on the foam fighters!
Then we wandered and chatted with vendors some more. That was a nice thing about the convention being so small, I could rub elbows with artist etc without holding them up. We were all keeping each other company. In fact, even many of the celebrities were getting bored and started seeking me out to take pics with them. Sadly, they have those pics not me. But mostly, today, like Saturdays at most conventions, was the day of the cosplayers.
Here, let me spam you with pictures:
Ok so technically those weren’t all from Saturday but looked like a good spot to put them. The Adam West Batman is my favorite, that movie/TV show was so hilariously terrible. It was actually quite weird for me to go to a con and not cosplay, but I wasn’t feeling well enough to don one of my glorious costumes. There were costume contests, and the child’s contest was lacking numbers so my Rocket Raccoon son was tracked down and thrown in the mix. The judges were three children, and my son won.
Sadly, I honestly think he won because he was the most recognizable character to the kids who were judging, and/or because he was furry and had a tail. I may be a terrible parent but I was rooting for the Maka (Soul Eater) and Amelia Pond child cosplayers in my head.
I had to leave right as two events were underway: The adult costume contest in one building and a wrestling match in the other. Why they timed them so that people would be forced to choose either/or, I’ve no clue. It’s not like this con had a packed event schedule. Those were “THE ” two scheduled events for the entire thing. Anyway, on my way out I was able to meet the contest judges - who were also guest cosplayers for the con, and some participants. The wonderful thing about that is that most of them are local, meaning I made some friends I can actually hang out with!
My new friends:
I want to mention our lovely Harley Quinn here. I stood right next to her during the kid’s costume contest, admiring how unique her take on Harley looked, but she was eating so I didn’t want to bother her and didn’t get an individual picture. That’s ok, though, because we found each other on Twitter with some unintentional help from GWW! I believe @Dr_Potatoes_ will be writing for GWW in the future, along with @InvictusCosplay (Arrow and Captain America) and hopefully the others as well!
Day 3 is sadly, not even really worth mentioning. While the Epic Con website stated that it went on till 7pm, everyone packed up and left. I honestly don’t blame them, but it’s yet another thing that does not make this convention look good. I did want to give a mention to one vendor, Curious Octopus, though. They make a style of upcycled clothing that I am in love with already. Thanks to other similar merchants on etsy, but they took their service above and beyond. I had wanted an elf hood/hat ever since I had bought one for my fiance’ and immediately got jealous of it. But the person I bought it from doesn’t have them anymore and I hoped maybe Curious Octopus did.
Nicole and Aaron informed me that they hadn’t made that kind of hat before, but since they do make long hoods for their dresses and sweaters they’d give it a shot. Not only did they make it the next day (Sunday/Day 3) but it was higher quality than my fiance’s, with a soft, warm inner lining. They let me talk them down a little on price, which I soon felt guilty for when I realized my purchase is what paid for their booth. Needless to say they were one of many vendors who won’t have a booth next year and I don’t blame them. Please check them out, though!
Overall I think this con is a con of a different sort, both for patrons and especially for the vendors themselves. It seemed like the vendors were overcharged, not given the space they paid for, and then patrons were charged for a badge to use for the *privilege* of shopping at said vendors. There were no panels, the celebs wanted money for everything too - as they tend to, and the only big events were scheduled at the same time in two different places. Fact is, people were having more fun OUTSIDE where they didn’t need badges.
Now, I don’t know how Epic Con did it’s first year, but I know if it wants to continue on in future years a LOT of changes need to happen before they chase off all celebs, vendors, and patrons (assuming it survives the lawsuits from all three). First and foremost is the complete lack of organization. Not so much as having badges printed by the first day? That should have been done well ahead of time. And giving people crappy slips of paper for badges won’t do either, as at conventions they are very often used for autographs. Plus, the con itself risks losing money simply by not bothering to keep any records on who pre-ordered a badge. Every con I’ve been to, I had to verify my identity to get my badge. Then I’d get a nice sturdy badge that had “Piper” on it, sometimes also with “D20 Girls” on it as well, so people would know who I was representing.
The worst offense may have been pre-charging vendors for specific spots, telling them they can’t sell certain things if they’re in the “artist alley”, then not contacting them again after they got their money? Add to that the whole bait-and-switch with throwing those very rules out the window and switching to first come first serve without warning. I know a vendor that kept e-mailing whoever was handling this because she had a lot of questions about set-up location and time and never got a single answer back. I also think a different weekend needs to be used, and the Montgomery Convention Center needs to be the location. One reason Epic Con lacked patrons is because it happens the same weekend a big gaming con is being held in the Convention Center. The Convention Center would also make it easier to hold more than two events, as well as panels and give the celebrity guests more comfort and attention. Oh yeah, Epic Con? Schedule your few events at different times, just a thought?
Despite all this mess, I did still have a lot of fun. I like the intimacy of a smaller con, as I wasn’t just another face passing through. We were all able to really talk about our passions, artist were able to talk about their craft more, and we were able to form many true friendships. I’m afraid, however, that if this lack of prep, planning, or integrity continues on the part of the people running EpicCon we won’t get to experience it for very much longer. All the passion is here. All the fun and potential. I want to see this thing blast off and grow! Especially since it’s so freakin’ close to me!