ConCarolinas 2009 Report
From the end of the 2008 ConCarolinas to the start of 2009, that year makes one where I have never worked harder on a con. Jeff Smith got the big ball rolling by negotiating a sweet deal with a new hotel – the Charlotte Hilton University Place. But from then on, I was the one that handled things. I got us the business license, the incorporation papers, the insurance, worked with the hotel on layout and dealt with the road bumps like the location of the suite. I am not trying to toot my own horn even though I may sound like it, but I am just trying to say that I worked my butt off.
Many others including my wife Stephanie, Frank, Donna, Mary, Janet, and Carol also worked their butts off. And boy did it pay off. Perhaps more than we wanted it to.
But before I get into that, let me say that the site – Charlotte Hilton University Place is a location that I have been eyeing for years. I recommended it first thing when the original hotel search was started by Irv but it was determined that the hotel rooms were too expensive. Well, for a con that was just starting out, that was true. But now, I feel we can justify those rates. And we got a good rate thanks to Jeff. This hotel has been a dream for me. I told the hotel staff as much. It is the most perfect place to run a con outside of downtown. In many ways, it is better than downtown.
The week before, pre-registration was already through the roof. We had 150 more than last year just in preregistration. There was no way for us to know this ahead of time but if we had, we would have closed preregistration earlier. Because we did not, circumstances seemed to work against us in the beginning. Mary struggled to get the badges printed and made. With things coming down around her in her personal life and another con just a few weeks before ours, Mary just could not get what she needed done. Preregistration badges had to be done onsite, which is bad. There was also problems with other badges. I lost it the night before because of that.
In the end, we need to figure out a better way to do badges. Steph and I will do the GMs and the Guest ourselves now that we know the template and can make it ourselves. I will also have to come up with an easier way for Mary and them to do the badge labels.
Set up with rather smoothly on Friday. We had a good group of volunteers show up and I think we had enough help to get things done. The flood of people started around 2pm and hit us hard, primarily because badges were not done. It was unbelievable. But Mary and her troops got them out in good time once things got rolling. The first few complained but the rest were fine with it.
But the flood of people did not stop completely. Every time I walked up to registration, there were people at registration. It was unreal. In the end, we had over 1000 people at our con. The significance of that is pretty huge, at least in the Carolinas. More about that later.
Friday was just a busy day with getting ready, setting up and getting gaming off to a good start. The only thing that had real problems were registration. Everything else fell into place pretty well – kids program, hallway video games, fan tables and dealers room. I got gaming registration set up and had a lot of help with GM check in – Nite, John, Jim and Chris all were a great help and getting things ready for gaming.
I did get a little grumpy Friday night because of some complaints and issues. The Con Suite directors set up special hours for guests and dealers. I thought that was OK, but thinking back I can see where that might rub people wrong. I never really got the concept of a con suite, at least not until now. In fact, I am not a real big fan of the con suite. I just see it as a hole we keep sinking money in and still get people bitching about it. You can’t please everyone. Anyway, I was being told by the president of the Southern Fandom Confederation that the special hours were not sitting well with people. But The guests and the dealers asked for it. We were trying to please everyone and ended up pissing off
everyone. Oh well. I immediately cut out the special hours.
None of this matters now because someone else is going to run the con suite next year.
Also, the filkers – Frank made a big deal about this but I am not entirely sure it was as big a deal as it sounded. Maybe it was. They simply did not have enough room in the room we gave them for late night filking. They were also complaining about the noise from the video games. What’s filking, you ask? Come to ConCarolinas and find out because it is
definitely a growing area at our con. In the end, because Frank had the keys to the Con Suite and it was closed, they used the con suite and everyone was happy. We have other solutions for that next year that include use of the patio (given good weather) and the RPGA gaming room after midnight.
I played a game Friday night – AT-43 and that pretty much ended my day. I was quite tired by Fri night. I knocked out about 1 AM after talking to a few people and getting a look at the game going on late night.
Waking up Saturday morning, I felt like Saturday was going to be interesting. The hotel had already set up a cash area to sell food in the hallways. That as cool except for the hallway traffic issues ( which were all over the place… more on that later). Saturday was going to be a day where they had a grill and outdoor vendors selling more food. That turned out to be simply awesome and very well received.
Gaming – I had several tournaments planned. The night before had Friday Night Magic, which amazingly went well. Settlers, Munchkin, Wits & Wagers, everything… went well. The only thing that did not go well was Bloodbowl. We’ll have to rethink that next year. Even though these tournaments got players, my table allocation was a bit off. I will be
cutting back on the tables and allocating few tables to tournaments.
Other things I got involved with – Role Players Meetup, Nerf War, and Gamemastering 101. All were fun. I met Sean Patrick Fannon formally finally and in doing, got great praise for the con, the gaming area and everything else. He now lets me write for RPGNow.com as a reviewer. For the Nerf War, I want across the street and bought a new Nerf Vulcan, but forgot to buy the batteries. I have them now and it is an awesome gun.
Saturday is the day that crowding and traffic was a huge issue. We had so many tables in the hallways. Simply too many. I could get through the halls when I needed to but many people noted that they felt like they were walking all over each other. It was good to see that many people everywhere, gamers and non-gamers alike. There were at least as many
gamers as non-gamers.
Saturday night was the Charity Auction. Oh man! That was hard. We had a ton of stuff. And it kept coming. We will have to make a deadline for donations next year. We raised more money then ever before. I had a lot of fun but this year seemed a lot more work then fun just because there was so much. It was at the auction that we announced that we broke 1000 people (close to it) .
Saturday night ended for me after the costume contest. I was told that there was other stuff going on, but I guess I am old. I was dead. No partying, no gaming, no nothing.
Sunday wound down like it normally does. I got to spend more time in the dealer rooms, closed up gaming and sent to closing ceremonies/con wrap up. I had two games on the schedule – in the end, neither of them made. That’s OK.
Not much to tell about Sunday except I was in total awe about the weekend. I could not believe the numbers we got. I doubted we would break 800 and we went far beyond that. This con has come into its own and its partially because of a great location but also a great staff who knows what the heck we are doing. We had a lot of people giving us congrats and other encouraging words. All our dealers and guests want to come back. But some simply won’t be coming back because they will not get an invite.
Gaming was incredible. I had three no-show GMs, but the room was still packed. I loved bringing people who had not seen “my room” yet into Glenwaters to show them the gaming set up. Their eyes lit up. It was a lot of room for a sci-fi con and a lot of gaming. We had a lot of gaming going on. Some had to move because of noise. I also had A LOT
of pick up games filling in the empty space of other games not making.
I was so busy with putting out fires all over the con (once again) I do not feel like I handled gaming well enough. The no-shows needed to be marked of the schedule so that people knew those tables were open. I may be to anal about things but I really wanted to do gaming a little better than I did. But despite that, gaming did do well all weekend – RPGA and non-RPGA. I could not have asked for a better weekend of gaming at a sci-fi con, to be honest, aside from the few no-shows.
We reached 1000 people. No literary sci-fi con in the Carolinas (with a reasonable budget) has ever done that. HeroesCon is a Comic Book convention and does not have the variety we have. It’s huge. Roc Of Ages is the only con that has ever done better but it has a 6 digit budget and lost all of it. It was one of the biggest fiascos in Carolinas convention history. So we have reached a milestone and made Carolina fandom history. It’s a good lead into out Deep South Con year.
There will be a lot of changes next year. There were simply too many people taking advantage of us and so everyone will have to pay for their lack of consideration. Some just won’t be invited back. Others will have topay to come back. No more free rides. We can’t have it anymore.
ConCarolinas 2009 was a resounding success, far beyond all previous years. We have to stick with this momentum and make Deep South Con the best in the south. We already have steps in that direction with a great Literary GoH and Artist GoH. Now, it’s just time for a vacation.