This was my 4th consecutive year attending Emerald City Comic Con (aka ECCC). This was also the 15th year anniversary of ECCC. The convention is not quite as big as the famous San Diego Comic Con (you know, the big one held annually in California); however, the convention here in our beloved Seattle was bought by a company called ReedPOP a couple years ago. ReedPOP is a company that runs several different conventions both nationally and internationally.This meant many things including how the convention is managed, which vendors or artists can attend, even the quality in guest stars. ReedPop decided for its first year managing ECCC (which was last year, 2016).
How is attending a comic book convention similar to a trip to a theme park? There are so many similarities such as the lengthy lines as well as cost. There are even more opinions and strategies about what you should do in those circumstances as well.
After chatting with friends and fellow con-goers, here is a list of things to prepare yourself for when attending major events like these. I compare ECCC to going to a Disney themed park. You will be standing for hours, compressed like a sardine in lines for a vast majority of that time regardless if you are seeing a celebrity or even buying merchandise.
Wear comfortable shoes, in fact, probably bring a spare pair just in case. One of my patients actually told me about this. He said that if you switched your shoes half way through the day, your feet get a chance to spread out again and usually this helps with low back pain too.
Bring a water bottle. The cost of bottled water at conventions is ridiculous! Why do they charge over $2? Because they can! There are some water fountains scattered around the Seattle Convention Center which is handy for those with refillable bottles.
Consider bringing your own lunch and snacks. Yes, it is pretty handy that there are restaurants inside the convention. Heck, even across the street are places like Subway and the Cheesecake Factory. EVERYONE WILL BE GOING TO THESE PLACES TO EAT AS WELL! Including the celebrity guests or their handlers. So, unless you’d like to wait in a line for food; probably think about brown bagging it or go when people are stuck in lines or held up in panels. For amusement parks, consider cost of food and maybe do some research. A trick I was told is to share portions and prices with someone who is going with you. Unfortunately places like Disney Land/World don’t always sell the most healthy snacks either; consider bringing veggies or other healthy options.
If you plan on wearing a costume, make sure that you’re not only comfortable wearing it for hours on end but that you’re okay with people asking to take your picture. There are areas of the convention that are specifically for cosplayers (costume players; aka people in costume) to modify, fix, or touch up their costumes. And of course cosplay does not equal consent. If you are verbally or physically harassed at any point; find a convention minion (they are the helpers, but they are called minions) and they will take care of the situation immediately. That’s why they’re there. To make sure that everyone is enjoying the con and is safe.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of people, the noise, or simply over stimulated (it happens) and need to escape to a quiet area; there is usually a room specifically for that. Last year it was just one room shared with kids who needed space to decompress. If you are at a theme park, find an area where you can sequester yourself or if it is simply too much call it a day and go back to your hotel room.
Shop around. Merchandise can get pretty expensive and you may want to ask yourself questions like "Can I find this particular item somewhere cheaper?", "This is an awesome piece of fan art, but can I grab the artist's business card and purchase this later?", and of course "Will this fit in my carry on?". What usually happens at conventions is on the last day most merch booths don't want to pack all their stuff back up for the next convention and are more willing to drop prices.
Just remember to enjoy yourself. You came to this event to have fun and maybe meet your hero(s) whether it’s a celebrity from one of your favorite movies/tv shows or an obscure local graphic novel writer/artist. It can get very stressful and there may be times when you are just sick of people; take a step back, take a few deep breaths, and remember the reason why you came.
So, whether you’re a nerd and love to dress up as your favorite characters and geek out with other like minded people, or traveling long distances, or going to one of the funnest places on Earth like an amusement park; come prepared and remember to have fun!