ConCarolinas 2011 Con Chair Report
ConCarolinas2011 Con Chair Report
This year was going to be an interesting year for us. It was going to be a truetest after all we went through the past summer. Coming from the person thatseemed to be at the center of all of it, I was eagerly waiting to see if allthe talk was just that or more than just talk.
The committee definitely proved the latter.
This is the first year that I really felt like several things were out of my hands. I really feel like I let go and trusted other people to do their own thing. Inmost areas, that trust was not misplaced. And in others, people stepped up tofill whatever hole that might need filling. I had concerns with the con suite,hallway tables, and in programming but I left them alone and figured they wouldwork out. For the most part, they did.
Things of course started for us on Thursday. Loading up and getting stuff to the conwas not fun. But it only took three truck loads and one car. Thanks toBrandon Blue and Jordan Anderson for helping with the haul. The hotel wasgreat with finding us places to store our stuff. My first concern actuallystarted earlier that week as I visited the hotel but really grew into a majorconcern on Thursday – the temperature of the hotel. It just seemed muggy inthe hotel as many of us noticed.
Thing sreally started smoothly for us, I guess because I took off Thursday and I got ahotel room on Thursday night. Although it costs a little more, I think thelack of stress really helps and I will be getting a room Thursday night in thefuture. I liked that when we got to the meeting, we really did not have a lotto say. I really felt like everyone had everything together. That’s a good thing.
My goal was to do as much as I could ahead of time. For instance getting thehallway signs up was important. Jada and Nite Morrison both handled that. Idid as much stuff as I could on my end but ended up staying up later than Ishould have. I got only about 4 hours of sleep before I had to get up for FoxNews Rising. I wanted to get our banner up so it would be on camera and thattook a long time. Thanks to Andy Fairbanks for staying up late with me andhelping. He ran out in the middle of the night to get me some rope fromWalmart. While I was waiting on him to get back, I worked on getting newPayPal buttons on the web site so Mary could ring up Pins and Bags.
Friday morning came quicker than I wanted but I made it down there. However it wasnot as early as some others because I was already getting calls about peopletrying to get into the room. That was the morning of the first snafu – thehotel security guy broke his key in the programming room lock! A room we HADto have locked every night. I tried not to let that bug me but I knew that wasgoing to be an issue later.
FoxNews Rising arrived a little late. I was getting nervous and had Cheralyn texthim just in case. We had about 20 people there but the group grew to about 50as the morning went on. It seemed harder to drum up the energy from this groupbut they were hooting and hollering like a good crowd of geeks. They just hadto wake up. It is amazing how quickly Wilson can go off script and wing it. Iwas only bummed that I scheduled certain group for camera time and they nevergot it. But it is Wilson’s show, so I left it to him. The highlight was thelittle girl zombie and the dance party.
Once the Fox News Rising shoot was over, it was on to setting up and getting ready. My mind was racing with thoughts of things I had to do and have ready beforenoon. But also thoughts of the unknown – Howare some of our media guests going to do? How slow is Friday going to be? Howpacked are the hallways going to be? Which guests are going to prove to be theproblem children? It was probably the 5-hour energy drink I had earlier butthere was just a lot going through my head.
Gaming got set up pretty well. Nite Morrison, Joe Creech and Dawson Berry were allbig helps. I was getting very encouraged that gaming was going to be in goodhands.
One major concern with gaming was the SCARAB people. Earlier in the year, I got anemail from Del Collins (owner of SCARAB) saying that his group planned to be atConCarolinas. But I did not hear anything from them until a week before thecon. By that time, my game room was full except for two major events thatcancelled. SCARAB wanted to bring 6 to 8 people, all running games or helpingwith administrative stuff. I was happy that I could fill some recently emptiedtables but I wasn’t sure I could do 8 people. We got down to 6, I added atable to the RPGA room and worked them in. I am very appreciative of SCARAB’shelp, but I can’t do that next year. I have to hear from SCARAB way ahead oftime if they are going to bring a team.
Friday noon rolled up way too quickly and we suddenly had people in the hallways,asking for badges, asking for schedules and asking where stuff was. Registration seemed to go well and there never seemed to be a huge line. Thanks to Mary Kane and our wonderful registration volunteers for keepingthings flowing.
The rest of Friday was a blur as I was VERY VERY tired from only 4 hours sleep. Iremember dealing with various issues like table issues for guests (both GeekComedy Tour and Carla expected a table and that was not in their contractanywhere. We hooked them up though.), rearranging things in the Glenwatersgame room twice because I screwed something up, making sure all GMs had theirbadges because of a minor problem with miscommunication with my volunteers, andrunning Wits & Wager later at night with a fine group of 7 people. I gave away 3 copies of the Wits & Wagers game. Most of the issueswere fairly minor and I felt very relaxed by the end of the night.
Opening Ceremonies was fun. We showed the 2009 video first, then Rich talked, I talkedand everyone else talked more, then we showed the 2010 video. Some of ustalked more than we probably needed to but it was generally fun. It was coolto show that we have our act together enough now that we have booked ourliterary guests of honor all the way out to 2014. If you missed it – JackMcDevitt in 2012, Timothy Zahn in 2013 and George RR Martin in 2014.
About mid day, the hotel had the door fixed in Main Programming. I was reallyimpressed with that. Also, I noted that the heat was not as bad as last year. It was still noticeable in places and some other rooms were a tad nippy butoverall, the hotel was really successful with the temperature control.
My wife ran guest services check in all day Friday, with our kids cooped upthere. It was not easy at times, and I tried to help. Folks need to thank herbecause it was harder than usual this year as she is also pregnant. She had somehelp (thanks to Trey Krieger) as the weekend went on but Keegan proved to be achallenge over the weekend. Taylor ended up playing with some friends throughoutthe weekend which was good but Keegan was pretty bored.
I knocked out fairly early Friday night, so my wife says. I don’t rememberfalling asleep but she says she had to take off my shoes for me.
All day Friday registration was handled well. The Smartswipe devices really helpeda lot. Thanks to Jordan for finding them, Jada for finding them on sale andthe Registration staff for using them so efficiently.
Throughout the day, I noticed things a little slow. We had our regulars that come earlyeach year but I did not see many panels filled up. Gaming was packed from 3 pmonward but that’s about it.
Thoroughly rested, I got up early enough to have breakfast with my wife and kids. Firstissue I had to deal with was the Ghost Trek van. I rolled my eyes and thought“Here it goes,” but honestly it ended up being handled well. Between Jada andthe other fine people in Mike’s entourage, he kindly moved the van. Headmitted to me later that he was trying to pull a “fast one.” Thanks toeveryone for handling that well.
Gaming was rolling with the help of my volunteers so I felt OK about going around andputting out fires where I could. My second fire was finding Jeff Smith so theSingularity Effect group could give him his award. The award ceremony got startedlate but he was appreciative and the highlight was seeing a picture of him fromway back when he had hair. I have never known him with hair.
Thebest thing to happen on Saturday was the Cornhole exhibition and tournament. That was awesome. All the media stars were great about it and ended up signingJeff’s cornhole boards. The tournament went smoothly despite one of ourplayers getting arrested by the Mandalorians. They came for me, but I pulledmy con chair rank and was able to continue in the tournament.
The fact that I could spend a couple of hours outside playing cornhole is atestament to everyone else on the committee. In years past, I could not dothat. But I was relaxed enough to enjoy myself a little and I do appreciatethat. I thank everyone for really stepping up and taking ownership of theirportion of the con.
Oneof the new things I was supposed to handle was the gaming silent auction. Thatturned out to work out OK but because we did not get a lot of gaming stuffdonated, it did not generate as much as I wanted it to. Closing it down andhaving everyone settle up turned out to be a hassle because I really did nothave a system in place for it, but in the end, we got all the money. I wouldprefer not to have to do that next year. I would prefer to move the auctionback to the 7pm slot between gaming sessions and have all the gaming items goin the normal auction.
On that note, I have to say that as the weekend went along, I was more and moreglad I had SCARAB on board. They were a big help in all areas – AlishaPolkowsky along with Dan Delmater were a huge help with registration, MattPolkowsky ran pick up board games all over the place and they supplied severalGMs for games I did not have on the schedule yet. The only drawback was theMagic tournament which was more of a communication and logistics issue. Thatwill be fixed next year. But other than that, we had games of all kinds goingon in the gaming room – more board games than ever before, and more kids games(thanks to Clint Black and his family as well as others) going on than everbefore. Thanks again to all the Del Collins and his fine people at SCARAB forreally adding to ConCarolinas gaming.
Once the silent auction was dealt with, it was the regular auction that had to beprepared. We got some really cool stuff donated from the media guests and Iwas really pleased with what we had. We did not have a ton of stuff like lastyear but I feel like we had a good amount. We also had the raffle integratedinto the auction. That was for the stuff we normally just give away but stuffI would like to get a couple of bucks for at least.
I think the auction was probably the biggest disappointment of the weekend. Iattribute it to a bad economy and people saving money for gas. But it was liketrying to squeeze water out of a rock. I could not get money out of thesepeople no matter how hard I tried. Too many things went for too low a price. I was highly disappointed.
After the auction, I needed to get away and have something to eat. I knew that meantI would miss the costume contest but I felt Jada had that well in hand. Shereally took ownership of that when Morgan said she could not make it. Itsounded like it was a great success and congratulations to the winners. I hada good time with good friends, my wife and kids at Boardwalk Billy’s.
Again, I thank our capable con committee and staff for giving me the ability to go outand eat, something I have not been able to do in the past.
Returning from diner, things were still going on. The Geek Comedy Tour had a packedhouse and so did Klingon Karaoke. Everything was running smoothly thanks inpart to our fine security folks Luis Diaz and Brian Chappel. I finished upclosing gaming registration and went to bed about midnight after visiting a fewparties. The third floor was HOPPING!
Attendance had really picked up throughout the day, but it did not feel too full exceptdown the dealer room hallway and in the dealer room. Things throughoutSaturday did seem pretty busy and there were always people around our mediaguests. I know gaming was always packed and noisy but I did notice some panelsmaking more than others. I know you will have that but I hate to see partiallyempty rooms.
Sunday, also known as Zombie-Day, started with me getting up early enough to have breakfastwith my wife and kids again. There seemed to be more con-zombies roaming aboutthan normal. I guess the parties went well the night before. I suppose thatis one area that has picked up this year – the parties.
After opening gaming registration, I walked around and spoke to many folks. Everyoneseemed to have a good time. I got to finally talk to Jonny Fairplay, a guy Inever thought I would have at one of my conventions. Checking with importantaspects of the con, in general everyone had a good time and events went well. The only major disappointments were economy related.
The “How Can You Help Us Run This Con” panel went surprisingly well. I may havetalked too much, but we had about 6 people in there that honestly wanted tohelp. However, when I explained that 90% of this con is run over the internet,many seemed less willing to help. As I explained, it’s just a reality to thiscon. Out of all that, at least one guy seemed like a good prospect – Jonathan,I think his name was. I hope he emails us.
With that came closing ceremonies, in which I tended to just ramble on. I neverremember everyone to thank and as it turns out, I ended up forgetting people. Thanks to everyone for their hard work. This is one of our best years. And tomy surprise, we exceeded last year’s attendance by 20 or so. The total wasroughly 1335. Not bad.
Other items throughout the weekend
Nexus Gaming Alliance – Their setup was amazing and they were awesome to work with. Young kids but they knew what they were doing. Things were fairly slow forthem in the beginning but picked up. We paid them a flat fee to run thecomputer room, so they were dependent on traffic to make money. They probablyhad more equipment than they needed for the most part, but the computer roomgot used. I was very pleased with their results. Jason Taylor was an absolutepleasure to work with.
All the LARPs – I had more LARPs than normal this year. And all seemed to getpeople.
Vile Pirates went well and got 20 people. They were next to the computer room and Iwas concerned about the noise but they said they had no trouble. They will becoming back next year.
The Serenity LARP also got people and ran well. That was run by friends of mycousins, Carl and Cindy Little, as well as my cousin Jessica Lindsay and helpfrom Dawson Berry.
The World of Darkness had about 25 to 30 people and from all I heard, went well. Again, friends of Jessica ran that one.
Gaming in general was busy. Most games made and if they didn’t, they worked registration. I was surprised that Pokemon on Friday got people but I was pleased. Magic didnot make for administrative reasons, but in general, everyone had a great timein the gaming rooms. I’ll be getting reports from all my GMs over the nextweeks.
Gaming Registration went very well. I was testing out a new system – a ticket system– and discovered it works pretty well if I have the proper staff. The hardpart is figuring out if the game needs a ticket or not. Setting up a schedulefor my gaming registration workers was a huge help. My only problem is thatsome were very knowledgeable of the schedule and my system while others werenot.
Zombie Walk – I talked to Dee towards the end of the con and they had 20 or so zombiesand all the makeup artists were busy. The zombie walk was a success from whatI understand.
Despitea few thinly populated rooms, I did feel like programming went a lot smootherthan last year. Kudos to Carol Cowles for a good variety of panels and eventsto keep attendees busy and happy. I am getting reports that gaming programmingwent well, and was well attended.
Operations was flawless as far as I could tell, thanks to John Trieber and Randall Cowles.
The dealer room, art room, and fan tables must have run fairly smoothly as I didnot hear any complaints or have to be involved in any problems. Thanks toJanet Iannatuano and Jada Diaz for that.
It seems like the volunteers were handled fine and the raffle went off well,thanks to Donna Parker.
Overall, this had to be the best year for us. Everything ran fairly smoothly. Everyonestepped up and took ownership of their part of the con. Everyone did a goodjob. Thanks to everyone else I may not have mentioned in particular FrankParker, Joey Paquette, Greg Gershowitz, and anyone else. We were a great teamand this year was awesome.