This weekend is the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, one of Western Canada’s largest pop culture conventions.
Sadly I am unable to attend. Though it is particularly crushing to know I will be unable to meet the voice actor whoportrayed Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”, or Kahl Drogo / Aquaman actor Jason Momoa, or famed Batman writer JimLee.
Other commitments are keeping me from attending this convention, but there are many more to come.
To me the Calgary Expo marks the beginning of “con season” though many would argue it lasts all year. There is a downseason to be sure, but in my eyes the season begins with the Calgary Expo in April and ends with the New York Comic Conin October.
As this weekend marks the beginning of convention season I thought now would be a good time to take a walk downmemory lane to my first convention.
I’m not talking about comic book sales, or my first time in a comic book store – that is another frustrating topic alltogether.
I was in my early 20s, which really wasn’t that long ago, the first time I went to the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo.
I was not prepared.
Despite being smaller than it is now, the experience was very overwhelming.
I guess I wasn’t thinking clearly about what it would be like. All I knew was there was likely to be some cool costumes andsome great artists.
In my head it wasn’t going to be that bad because, after all, it wasn’t the San Diego Comic Con right?
I was very, very wrong.
The experience was exhausting. I was taken aback by just how many people can fit inside the BMO Centre in Calgary.
The first time I attended this convention was the year Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner was in attendance.
Line-ups were crazy long, and some people waited hours before they were turned away saying so-and-so was no longertaking photos or autographs and to come back later.
In some areas it was hard to move, and if you got tired and needed to sit down, you would be hard pressed to find a sparepiece of floor.
What really surprised me was how warm it was inside the centre. Despite there being air conditioning, the amount of peoplein the rooms caused even the most seasoned con-goer to break a sweat.
By the end of the day, I was broke and exhausted.
And, I was extremely happy.
Generally speaking I’m not fond of large groups, anxiety kicks in and I panic a little. Sure, it happened a few times here orthere it didn’t bother me like it has other times.
These are my people, at the convention I was home.
I found it easy to talk to random people in line or at a booth next to me. All I had to do was point to something they werebuying, exclaim how much I love the character they were dressed as, or comment on the comic book they were holding orlooking for.
In my everyday life, especially at this point in my life, I had trouble looking people in the eye when I spoke to them, if Ispoke to them. The convention experience put me outside my element without me really realizing it.
Since that first convention six or so years ago, I have learned a few things. If you are attending a convention this season,maybe my experience can help you.
Always bring a water bottle. Buying water at the convention is expensive and the lines are always long.
Don’t forget the snack. Things like granola bars can help keep you going, especially if you realize it is 5 p.m. and youmissed lunch.
Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking a lot, comfort is key. If you are cosplaying, there is no shame in bringing anextra pair of comfy shoes to walk the floor.
Bring a list. This is so helpful if you are a collector going to the con to find specific items. In the stacks and walking artistalley, you are likely to get distracted or completely forget what you are looking for.
If you can, buy your tickets ahead of time. A lot of the larger conventions, like the one in San Diego, sell out in hours. Beprepared and buy your tickets ahead, then you get more time on the floor, rather than waiting in line to get inside.
I love the con atmosphere, I generally look forward to it. Though, it is by no means a relaxing weekend.
If you are attending the Expo this weekend or at all this season, may I suggest the voice actor panels? Those are almostalways good for a laugh.