Location: Columbus, OH
Date: January 23rd - 25th, 2004
Pictures: ~ 200
Ohayocon is always a somewhat different experience for me -- probably because I've been on staff each year from year one. So, this report will be of a slightly different flavor, and I'll be telling how things went for me as part of the Live Events staff. I had been staffing as more of a helper than anything else for the previous three years. But, this year, I jumped up to semi-running live events. How and why isn't that important; it was definitely the most responsibility I've ever had to maintain during a convention! It was quite a rewarding -- if exhausting -- experience. However, it means the whole con was more of a blur to me than anything else, and I have a feeling my writing will reflect that!
Things were going pretty smooth to start off with. I flew out to Columbus, and got busy pretty much as soon as I got there. Until you've staffed at a convention, it's really hard to appreciate how much effort goes into setting it all up, and how many tons of stuff is actually needed. On top of that, even from a middle-level position, I could tell how many different things the organizers have to worry about. As far as I was concerned, though, I was happy just to get the recently completed schedule in my hands so I could make sure everything would run smoothly. Of course, that was just the calm before the storm.
It just has to be said again: a convention needs tons upon tons of different items to function. Luckily, whoever was in charge of getting all these items did a pretty good job. Whatever I needed, somebody could find. Signs. Stands. Posters. TVs, computers, screens, speakers, tables, chairs, carts, even an industrial sized roll of paper towels. Of course, it was my job to run around between whoever had something, and whoever needed it; and on occasion, convince whoever had it that they needed to give it to me.
Most stressful was certainly keeping panels run on time, and in the right location. In particular, I wasn't sure how best to deal with the guests. That was one thing I hadn't considered, and when it came time to make some quick decisions, I felt really torn between which options were best. In the end, though, I think I managed to work things out without stepping on too many toes. If I'm ever going to be in that position again, I'll make sure to talk with the guest relations staff to make sure we at least coordinate.
Almost as stressful, and just as rewarding was setting up for the cosplay. I was called upon to arrange seating to accommodate (a) guests; (b) press and media; (c) cosplayers; (d) staff; and (e) attendees. For some reason, when I started, I thought it would be easy. The hardest part was actually manual labor, moving around tons and tons of chairs. The ballroom which held the cosplay was really nice... and really big. Luckily, a number of people (I'm not even sure where they all came from) were friendly and helped move and stack chairs. And somewhere in there we even managed to set aside room for everybody else. And once that was done, I got me a nice seat from which to watch the cosplay. After all that, I decided to just relax and watch, and take pictures later. (Oh, and my batteries were close to dying anyways, since I'd been running around all Saturday...)
But yes! In between it all, I did manage to do what I like to do most at cons: take pictures. The good part about running around keeping everything on track was that I was always running into cosplayers. Taking a moment to pull them aside for pictures was relaxing for me, and I didn't feel as though my responsibilities were taking away from my enjoyment of the convention.
Not to disservice any of the other cosplayers, but there were a few costumes that really stood out. Two girls dressed as the berserker costumes for Yuna and Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 probably got more attention than anybody else at the con. Even amongst a hoard of other good Final Fantasy cosplayers, they really managed to stand out. It's no wonder they managed to walk away from the masquerade with prizes. They were even very friendly, and told me how they made the accessories (which looked to me like they'd break one's neck without support). From what I remember, it's mostly paper clay with cardboard; I was expecting resin or something. Just goes to show how resourceful and dedicated (and talented) cosplayers get.
Of course, if I mention those two, I have to mention their compatriot, also from Final Fantasy. About everybody into anime and/or video games knows about Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. It's not uncommon for cosplayers to make a costume based only on a few sketches and basic descriptions, regardless of if the show has even been released yet. But this guy did a costume of the unknown antagonist from Advent Children, and did a pretty good job at it, too. Just as popular as many female cosplayers get in an attractive costume, this guy seemed to have created a small following, too. His award from the cosplay probably helped, too: Best Ass.
If anybody remembers anything from Ohayocon (other than the snow -- more on that later), it was the food court in the convention center. Yes, that's right, a food court right there in the middle of everything. As part of the regular commercial establishment on the bottom level of the building, it had a good selection and fair prices. There are few cons I can think of where I managed to pay less for sustenance over the weekend. Nothing goes together like convention attendees and cheap food, not only did every last con goer get their fill, the establishments made a killing, too, keeping late hours and extra staff on hand to meet demand. It was nice to hear that we were some of the best and friendliest customers they've had.
It's not that hard to believe when you compared Ohayocon to the BMW executive's dance party held Friday night. It's often the anime and manga fans at hotels and conventions that get a (bad, though in some cases warrented) reputation for being loud, disruptive, and obnoxious. Well, if you were there, you probably remember what a pain that party was. I'll admit, many anime fans go a bit beyond socially acceptable bounds, especially at a con and at the late night hours. But even then, I'm glad to say they either manage to keep within some relm of decency, or have friends around to keep them in check. Either the BMW people didn't care about decency, or didn't notice what pests they were. Nothing in particular happened, and I wouldn't hold anything against anybody there, but it was pretty clear which group was the rowdy and obnoxious one.
To wrap things up, a quick summary. Ohayocon was a big weekend for me, both for fun and for work. Stressful though it was at times, it was definitely worth it, and I'm glad to be part of such a wonderful event.
My adventure back was pretty interesting. The incoming snow storm pretty much knocked out the airport, and made the roads passible only with extreme caution. Even though my airline wasn't going to refund any part of my ticket due to the snow, I decided to drive back home with friends anyways. Columbus to Balitmore is quite a drive on it's own, and in the snow took more than twelve hours! It was certainly better that being stuck in Ohio. As much as it would have been fun to stay for a dead-dog party, I had work the next day. After all the driving around, though, I still didn't make it in to work on monday until 4 pm. I ended up staying till close to midnight.
Certainly worth it, though.
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