Report and Notes
One thing almost everybody will remember about this convention, wether they went or not, is the snow. The metro DC area was blanketed in record amounts of snow in the prior week, shutting down schools and government. Though the snow stopped by Thursday, the major delays at airports and on-going clean up efforts left a lot of roads hazardous or still closed. Many people planning on driving in from other parts of the east coast were still snowed in. Nevertheless, a number of die-hard fans could not be stopped and the event was still in full swing.
The state of Maryland has been trying to pull some tourism and business out of DC and NoVa, and built the National Harbor on the bank of the Potomac just south of the Capital Beltway. This large tourist complex is home both to the Gaylord National hotel and convention center which would house Katsucon, but also a number of other hotels, restaurants, and shopping. The restaurants and shopping are all a bit upscale. The closest thing to fast food is a Potbelly's Sandwich shop and a Peeps Candy story. The full-service restaurants are also a tad pricy. So it should be of no surprise that the Gaylord itself was ornate and gorgeous.
The main hotel has an 18-story glass roof enclosing an interior courtyard big enough for several smaller buildings (built in a sort of faux-chateau style) and a fountain, amongst other indoor shops, bars, and restaurants. The view stretches out over the Potomac and into Arlington. The huge glass widow and ceiling let in tons of light to reflect off the white marble floors and walls. The cosplayers, of course, absolutely loved this.
The convention center itself is directly next door connected via several short hallways. The convention area is large and split mostly over two levels. The upper levels contain the smaller meeting and panel rooms while the downstairs rooms are the common concrete-floor halls used for exhibitions and larger events. The Gaylord convention center is fairly large, but with almost all events taking place along one of two adjacent hallways the convention seemed smaller than when held at other locations. Add to this that a large number of attendees never actually made it on account of the snow, and the convention seemed a lot smaller than in previous years. Finally, a lot of people spent a lot of time in the hotel rather than the convention center, and so the whole convention seemed very uncrowded. Compare this to the year it was back at the Crystal City location, which it had outgrown years before, which was extremely crowded.
Katsucon has been running for sixteen years now and the organizers have a fairly good idea of what works. With the move to a new location, they kept things simple and put on a good convention, just as they have in past years. With the new location came some challenges, though. Booked at the same time as Katsucon was a meeting of the Military Order of the Carabao. This order is basically an exclusive club for military brass from all the branches. So Saturday night saw both many of the anime convention attendees, many of course in costume, mixing with marines, sailors, airmen, and soldiers. And with plenty of booze on both sides. While this may sound like a recipe for disaster, for the most part everybody thought it was interesting to see all these other people dressed up all funny. Though at one point an expensive lobby table was broken, no conclusive blame was ever placed and no other particularly serious problems occurred. The hotel staff was also smart enough to realize that at night people would be drinking and wandering around, so they were all corralled into the fountain area, mostly preventing any serious noise complaints.
Some people were unhappy about the unavailability of cheap food near the convention center. Potbelly's was sold out of food by Saturday in the early evening. The burger place closed relatively early at 10pm, leaving only $25-a-plate restaurants open for most people. Even driving out of the National Harbor wasn't very helpful. Of course, many people came prepared for this. One of the next-door hotels had suites with kitchens in them, which was a clear choice for those who brought their own food. My only criticism would be of the formal ball. It was really neither formal, as the dress code was entirely uninforced, and instead of traditional dancing music, a DJ was playing the same techno as for the rave. Kinda defeated the purpose.
Katsucon will be returning next year, though, and with the unlikely event of another catastrophic snow storm happening, we can expect more of the same next year.