Lady Divinity Cosplay

Avalon Expo: Episode One

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New conventions are exciting, lively things. They’re basically little baby fledglings that have finally left the nest and are now on the path to thriving or horrible death.

I have just spent the weekend running around one such fledgling convention. Avalon Expo is a brand new con in the metro St. John’s area. This weekend was the first time it has occurred. Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking: the last time this chick talked about a local con, she just tore into it. Rest assured, Avalon Expo has earned my respect.

I went into Avalon Expo expecting it to be better organized than that other con. For one thing, some of the people holding panels were after telling me that the Avalon Expo committee was much better at communicating with them and seeing that they had all their needs met. If a con respects its vendors and panelists then chances are that it’s going to be well done. That’s not to say that Avalon Expo was perfect. Of course it wasn’t. It’s a fledgling that’s still shedding its baby down. The first con is always the growing pains con. This means that shit can and will go down. But it’s also the time for us, the attendees, to contact committee members and tell them what we had liked and what we had disliked.

What did I personally like? What did I dislike? Let me tell you by going through my experiences from this weekend.

My girlfriends are vendors so I had no friends to attend with. Instead, I spent the con with Tyler (Swarley Pilgrim) and Manni of youtube’s Candeu show, Tyler’s girlfriend Monica and my brother John. We also spent a good portion of the weekend with their friend Andrew. This meant that I was watching how they filmed the Candeu show. That’s probably a different blog story though. Anyway, when I wasn’t with them, I was checking out the vendors and shopping.

On the first day, I was an adorable (not really, I’m too tall and adult looking- yes, I am, stop IDing me liquor store cashiers) Lolita dressed all in black with a massive red and black wig.

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Anyway, one thing I noticed between the filming and the shopping on Saturday was the excellent layout of the vendor floor. Firstly, we were in the Remax Centre, which meant concrete floors. While concrete floors are actually terrible on the feet, there’s just something about them that makes a convention seem like a real convention. (This is likely because Anime North, New York ComicCon and Fan Expo all are in convention centers that have concrete floors in the vendor halls. The panel rooms are carpeted.) The vendors were well spaced, the area was roomy and the lighting was good. SFOTR 9 saw my girls manning their table in a dark, forbidding corner. Apparently the Holiday Inn has never heard of lights? The great lighting in the Remax Centre also meant that Tyler and Manni had good visuals while filming and cosplayers in heavy wigs or masks could actually see where they were going. All in all, I really liked how the Remax Centre was set up. Unfortunately, I knew there was a fault somewhere and I was proven right on Day Two.

I also liked the location of the con. We drove so, when it came time to hunt down food, it took us no time at all to get to Churchill Square. Churchill Square has a variety of places to eat plus a Shoppers so anyone heading that way had multiple options. Another thing I liked about the location was its closeness to a small park. This meant that I could and did go get pictures on the swings with the Fabric Fairies.

Here’s a little shout out to the vendor Box Cat. They had so many wonderful things to choose from. I think they were my favourite vendor, hands down. But that might be because I’m a huge biology nerd and they were selling serotonin necklaces.

I also liked the costume contest. But that was probably because it was short and the cosplayers didn’t really do any skits. I can’t sit through most costume contests. They’re dull. However, it did add to my suspicions of a major fault in the con’s setup.

Tyler and Manni asked the special guests Erica Schroeder and Kalman Andrasofszky if they were willing to be on the Candeu show. Both were just so amazingly nice and sweet when we spoke to them.

And then it was Sunday, day two in our adventure. I was a steampunk Kida. This was the day Tyler and Manni asked guest Dan Payne to participate in the show. He was just the biggest sweetheart.

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My intentions for Sunday were to get some pictures taken and to attend Tyler’s two Swarley Pilgrim panels. The first one was at 1 and was on Youtube. The panel room had a projector, a screen and a table so all Tyler had to do was bring his computer. By the way, it was really neat when he showed how to edit sound in a video. Unfortunately, he was difficult to hear.

This was a much bigger issue in his Swarley Pilgrim House Cup challenge. I could make out what he was saying in his role as the wizard version of Steve Harvey but I couldn’t hear what the contestants were saying. My brother, in charge of the correct and incorrect sound effects, couldn’t do what he was supposed to because he couldn’t tell if someone had a right or wrong answer until Tyler announced it. This is no fault of Tyler’s. The issue is in the setup of the con. Because the Remax Centre is primarily a curling rink, it’s not set up with multiple private rooms. The panel rooms were just a section of the vendor room hidden behind some curtains. This meant there was no sound proofing at all. And vendor rooms are always filled with the low roar of too many people talking at once. One wizard cannot compete against a mob.

There was also no signage. We didn’t even realise that the panels were behind the curtains at first. There needed to be something taped to them to say “This is Jellyfish Hall.” Another thing we noticed was that it wasn’t always clear who the volunteers were.

Overall, I think that the con had an amazing start. I do think that the panels need to be moved to a more private area or, if that’s not feasible, some sort of sound system needs to be implemented. Perhaps a simple speaker with a microphone could fix the sound issue in panels.

I am rather saddened that I couldn’t hear the House Cup Challenge over the din of the mob. But otherwise, it was a great time. I hope Avalon Expo continues to grow. Here’s to next year. May it be even better.

~Devinity

PS. The photos were both taken by Brent Slade.

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8 thoughts on “Avalon Expo: Episode One

  1. Hi! I’m one of the people involved who was involved with the Avalon Expo – I was usually in the vicinity of the back registration desk or running around in Jeff’s place when he wasn’t immediately available.

    I really appreciate your observations about the event, and I completely agree that there are things that need to be improved. As a first time con I don’t think we did too badly, but there is always room to improve. Signs are a definite necessity, and I’m going to suggest the possibility of not having the two ‘halls’ separated and the possibility of sound-blocking curtains (provided 1) we can find them, and 2) it’s in the budget). Microphones for the presenters is definitely something I wrote down in my book of ideas for next year.

    We are all still in that post-con exhaustion/mindfog stage but I will certainly bring up your observations when I talk to Jeff as part of the initial planning for next year. Thank you!

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  2. Good review, one thing I would add though as someone who had a table: I found getting in contact with Jeff (or anyone) proved to be difficult. I run the anime club and our table was confirmed pretty quickly (after a quick follow up email and a message on Facebook) but I was very late asking for a panel and so when I asked Jeff, he said it was pretty full but he’d try to fit us in. I sent a follow-up email later on… and another. The convention was getting close so we started putting together our panel just in case. It was only when the schedule came out and we weren’t there that I knew we didn’t get it.

    My roommate, who runs the LARP group, also had a table, panel, and the sparring ring outside and also had a hard time getting a hold Jeff as well. It became more of a game, will we get word back before we need it?

    Once the whole convention started, it was well organized and I enjoyed it. I know Jeff was super busy so perhaps someone on the team who is dedicated to being contact would be useful. Congratulations to Jeff and the team on a successful convention.

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    • Jeff was doing most of the planning and organizing on his own. I really only came in on the Friday right before the con, and when I realized that he needed help I stepped in as much as I could, and ditto for a few others. Things did get forgotten and communications were delayed or missed, and for that I do apologize. Next year the plan is to not let Jeff try to do it all so we can avoid repeats of some of the issues we experienced this year.

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    • Thank you (all of you) for the helpful constructive criticisms and fair comments.
      Many lessons have been learned from this year (not the least of which is my horribleness at managing email contacts) and all aspects are being examined to make a better next year, with help.
      Thank you for your support, and I offer my apologies for the areas that need improvement. 🙂

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  3. It wasn’t clear who the volunteers were? They were wearing green shirts with lanyards that said volunteer? What more do you want?

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    • I didn’t see anyone that fit that description. The only volunteers I saw were the ones sitting at the entrances and the ones at the two registrations desks and even that wasn’t consistent. And they weren’t wearing green shirts. Some were even in cosplay.

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      • Volunteers were an issue this year, but we will be taking steps to correct this issue for next year. There were some unforeseen issues that cropped up with it this year as well as with clearly identifying who the volunteers and security were, but that is something I am personally taking in hand for next year so that we can avoid a recurrence. Basically, we had a bunch of people volunteer and then just…well…not. I was in cosplay the first day – that is something that even Sci-Fi on the Rock encourages, btw (I volunteer for that as well) – as were several others. Yes, we should have had something that better identified us but that is something that was more or less forgotten about until the last minute. It will not be happening again if I have anything to say about it! As for the two desks being consistently manned…I know that there was always at least one person at each desk during con hours. Yes, there were some issues that needed to be sorted, but again that is something we will be taking care not to repeat. As well, no, I wasn’t wearing a green shirt on Sunday – there are reasons behind that but not necessarily ones that I feel necessary to bring up here. Suffice it to say that when running around like a chicken with its head cut off some things don’t seem as important, and the people who needed to know who I was did.

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      • I don’t care if the volunteers are in cosplay or not. It’s cute. But Chris was making it sound like the volunteers were obvious when they weren’t. And I know the desk by the loading doors wasn’t constantly manned because I saw no one there a couple of times. My group’s biggest concern with the non obvious volunteers was that we didn’t see anyone directing people to the panels. But a bit of signage would solve that problem just as well.

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