Ever since I was 6 years old, I've wanted to go to Disneyland. I know. How original of me, right? But could you blame my kid-self? The idea of going to a closed off place that has somehow resisted the dull and anxiety-ridden pains of the real world would be tempting for anyone, let alone a grade-schooler. While I never got my trip to Anaheim I did get a decent enough substitute, not to mention an much more reasonably priced one. The local Renaissance Festival.
About 1/1000 the price of a trip to Disneyland.
A few years after my dream trip was decided, I was taken to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and was successfully sated. I've been going at least once every year ever since and suspect I'll always find a way to visit. So you can imagine how dumbfounded I was to find out that our resident n00b, Lisa, had never set foot in a Ren Fair her whole life! Well this needed to be remedied, so I took her this past weekend and, let me say, I've never felt more like a parent my whole life.
Her eyes were practically popping out of her head and her mouth hung open in silent awe. After only an hour of sightseeing she told me that she wished she had come sooner. When I asked her why she hadn't before I got a sheepish reply that had something to do with the cost, obnoxious renaissance actors, and the theme not being enough to hold someone's interest. This wasn't an opinion she came up with herself, this was after hearing about it from other people and it's an opinion I've heard of before. So many friends that I've recommended the Ren Fest to have voiced these same concerns and apprehensions. Well guess what, I'm going to explain why you should tell the naysayers to shove it!
The Environment. The moment you approach the gates of any Renaissance Festival/Fair you know what you're getting into. One minute you're in modern society and in the next you're walking through a marketplace bustling with men and women dressed in tunics and bodices who greet you with a “Milord!” or “Milady!” On either side of you there are shops and stalls selling wares you certainly won't be able to find at your neighborhood strip mall, all while performers entertain the masses that surround them in the street. Every building you pass is distinctly Medieval/Renaissance in it's structure and design (aside from Port-a-Potties, of course). You are instantly transported to a new world and they do it very well.
The Entertainment. I'm thoroughly convinced anyone can find something fun to see or do at Ren Fest. Whether you feel like laughing at a comedy show, marveling at an impressive feat, or watching dances from far away lands. It's all here. There are various shows performed on stage everyday, but out on the streets you can't swing a peasant without hitting one of the many roaming performers. You also get entertainment you'd NEVER find outside of a Ren Fest. Live jousting? They've got it. Kilt or Beard competitions? It's here. Fencing duels? Of course! Riding freakin' elephants? Yep (At least in MN). You'll want to see and do everything you possibly can and will probably find that there's no way to fit it all in a day.
The Costumes. I mentioned earlier that those working or acting at the Fest wear a costume fit for the times, but they don't have to be the only ones. While it's certainly not required, guests to the Fest/Fair are free to wear their own costumes on the grounds! Being the nerdy cosplayer that I am, I've brought my share of outfits in order to really feel like part of the magic. Even better is that you don't have to wear a period costume! They have themed weekends that encompass pirates, steampunk, magic, or even fairies! I've also seen people dressed in anime, video game characters (Assassin's Creed is literally everywhere), and Tolkien-verse costumes. Yes, they may not be strictly keeping to the theme, but it's all in good fun. For me, it's amusing to think about how such characters would act in medieval/renaissance times. The interactions these cosplayers have with the actors and environment is nothing short of entertaining!
The Stuff/Food &Drinks. Seriously, guys. So much stuff! Not just renaissance related either! I could list off all of the things sold at my local fest, but then we'd be here for hours. Let's just say that there are about 250 artisans who come by to sell their wares. Yeah. The food is quite varied; you can get the classic turkey leg or you can get yourself some italian pasta or greek gyros! And, of course, there's plenty of booze to go around. As I'm not much of a beer or ale person, the option of having mead or hard cider is greatly appreciated. Might I recommend some Egyptian Mead or 'Gumption' Hard Cider? Delicious!
It's hard to put my finger on exactly what makes my local Renaissance Festival work. Everything I mentioned above certainly adds to the charm, but I'd have to say that the actors, artisans, and everyone who works there has a lot to do with it. Everyone I've encountered at Fest made me feel welcomed and like a part of this little world they created. They have a love and passion for what they do and are dedicated to getting some of that love and passion rubbed off on the rest of us (along with that fairy glitter). Well, I suppose that if my job was going from festival to festival and living in such a magical state of mind, I'd be pretty passionate too.
Have you gone to a Renaissance Festival/Fair? What do you like most about your local one? Comment below to let me know! Maybe I'll visit yours one day.
Last week, the sum total for all fandom took place as it does every year in sunny San Diego. That's right, Comic Con International logged another successful convention in the books and I was back in my humid hometown watching it all go down via online news sites, social media and television.
Me following Comic Con news.
Since high school, I've always wanted to attend the massive gathering of geekdoom, but due to scheduling, funds and most recently, sold out tickets, I've been unable to attend. Which has left me as blue as a Smurf.
That's not a good look on anyone.
Although, with each passing year and great leaps in technological advances, it seems like making the pacific coast pilgrimage is less and less necessary. Need proof? Well, let's take a look this past convention and see if the fans got their time and money's worth.
Didn't even show up to the party. Rumor has it, that they're too 'Hollywood.' When the biggest player in the industry doesn't even come out to play, that for me, makes Comic Con less of a draw for me.
Yes, they were able to get Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, on a panel, but how interesting is that, when they can't even talk about the upcoming movie? Beyond that, what is the movie even about? Lucasfilm still hasn't released a new trailer nor did they give anyone in the audience a peek at any new footage. The only thing they did do was screen a behind the scenes video that they then released online immediately afterwards. If I spent 24 hours in line to attend this panel, I must admit, I'd be a little let down.
While they were more forthcoming with footage from their projects, including the upcoming Suicide Squad, someone in the audience recorded the footage and posted it online by Sunday taking away all exclusivity for the fans attending. I for one blame the Convention for this. They owe it to their exhibitors to have a better system in place to stop this from happening. The other thing they unveiled was the new trailer Batman v Superman which was also put out online by the studio right after its screening. Sigh.
GAME OF THRONES
Nothing. Not even a release date for the new season. It was just some cast and crew talking.
Give us more!
So if the heavy hitters aren't putting much effort into their presentations, does this mean that maybe Comic Con's importance is waning? I'd say so. With each company now building their own fan events and conventions, I foresee future Comic Con Internationals looking a lot like this one in the years to come. Which may be a good thing, since that means the event may have a chance to return to its roots as a comic book industry event.
From what I can tell now by speaking to some friends that have attended, the convention still offers comic book industry panels, events, and opportunities to network, but with so many similar conventions nationwide with lower costs and smaller crowds, it seems to me that I may now be able to cross Comic Con International off my list, without even attending.
Agree? Disagree? Debate below.
As we come to the end of 'Con Season', I can't help but feel like it has to go out with a bang! Like all of us geeks and nerds need to come together and be loud and proud of all of our greatest obsessions! In my book, there's no better way to do this than to go to the four day long Convergence Convention.
CONvergence logo via Convergence-Con.org
'Convergence' is exactly what it's name implies, a converging of fandoms from across the board. It's one huge party where every TV Show, Anime, Film, Book Series, Video Game etc. you could ever think of is represented and celebrated by the ones who love them most, hence why it's one of the biggest conventions in the Midwest. It's been going on since 1999 and is always held on the first weekend of the month of July, usually landing somewhere on the Fourth when it can literally end the season with a bang!
Besides being ginormous, Convergence sets itself apart from many conventions by having actual lore behind its mascot, Connie the fembot. There's a Professor Max who created multiple robots seen at the con (Including Connie herself) and Connie's younger sister, Mark 2 (All hail, Mark 2!) who tried to take over the Con back in 2010 when the theme was 'Bring On The Bad Guys'. It was amazing, you should have been there! Speaking of themes, each year has a different one. This year's theme was 'DoublePlusGood', all about dystopian futures and Connie allowed Mark 2 (All hail, Mark 2! Sorry, force of habit...) to host this just this once. The website has the full story on their lore which you can find HERE.
This year, I brought a newbie with me for not only her first Convergence experience, but her first Convention experience EVER. That being said, I wouldn't bring another ConVirgin to Convergence to pop their proverbial 'cherry'. I'm not saying it should absolutely never be done, there are always exceptions, but there is just so much being crammed within a four day period that the uninitiated will most definitely experience some form of sensory overload. Heck, I still need to take breaks throughout the weekend and I've been going for nearly a decade. This is a convention that needs a gameplan, I've known friends who'd bring printed schedules to see and do everything they wanted. Seriously.
Convergence has your convention staples like panels, stage performances, demonstrations, gaming and crafting. But they like to go a bit beyond what you'd probably be used to. Because ConV takes up the entire Doubletree Hotel and spills into neighboring ones, there are a ridiculous amount of panels that cover nearly every topic. Demonstrations can range from scientific to learning how to play cricket (super fun, by the way) and there's an entire room dedicated to crafting your heart out called 'Quantum Sandbox'. Performances range from musical like Harmonic Convergence to improv performances by Fearless Comedy and beyond. As for the gaming? Well, it's everywhere. Not just in the rooms between ConSuite but up on the 22nd floor of the hotel where there are rooms dedicated to card games, RPGs, and one awesome game called Artemis Online that I got to try out!
I've mentioned that this convention is pretty big, so just try and imagine their Dealer's Room! Trying to navigate through it can be daunting but everywhere you turn you're going to see something and say “OMG, that's awesome!” or “I need that. Right now. Take all my money!”
You said it, Fry.
Masquerade event, which has impressed me numerous times with its wide array of costumes and skill level of the participants. However, IMO, the real masquerade is out in the halls of Convergence. Costumers seem to love to bring their 'A' game even going from one panel to another, you can run into giant robots, Lego Han Solo and Batman or even Groot!
I can't even begin to tell you everything that I've seen just from walking to go get some soup at Consuite. Don't worry about going hungry, by the way, Consuite has you covered with as much free soup, rice, and PBJ as your heart desires (They serve a few surprises now and again too).
Once your day at Con is spent and you're ready to crash there's only one thing to do, that's right, party until you pass out! (Please don't actually pass out, that was a figure of speech. Always drink responsibly at any convention!) Convergence has two levels of party rooms with a wide range of themes and drinks to try. Some of them will even have their own little blink-and-you'll-miss-them events that you have to see to believe! Connie even joins in the fun at Connie's Space Lounge with awesome music, dancing, activities and smoothies!
My final consensus is that if you feel your Con season needs to end with more fanfare and you need a break from the humdrum Fourth of July getaway then you should seriously consider checking out Convergence. I guarantee that you'll get the celebration you never knew you needed!
There's probably tons of things I left out (It's a big Con, people!) so please leave comments below telling me all the things you did or saw at Convergence this year! Or e-mail stories/pictures to email@example.com and I'll share them here.
For more info on CONvergence, visit their website HERE
Spring has sprung! That of course means warmer weather, flowers everywhere, lots of rain, and Game of Thrones every Sunday!
A bit ironic, all things considered...
But even more specifically for me, springtime is when I go through my massive collection of comic books and action figures. Not for spring-cleaning though (You'll have to pry my collectables from my cold, dead hands). It's so that I can figure out what issues and pieces I'm missing in the hopes that I'll find it at MSP Comicon.
This convention (formerly known as SpringCON) is one of two (the other being Fall Comicon) put on every year by the Midwest Comic Book Association or MCBA. They are a completely volunteer and fan based group that is devoted to promoting anything and everything comic book related. That doesn't just mean supporting the fans, but also the creators who make their beloved content whether they be professional, independent, or aspiring.
Artists from all of the categories I've mentioned come to show/sell their work and, frankly, it's refreshing to see the new and creative content being made. It warms my heart to see that the medium is nowhere near dying off and that so many other people understand and share a love I've had since childhood.
Now, with all this comic love being thrown around it only makes sense to have actual comics for us to peruse and purchase as well. If you're missing an issue of Wolverine: Weapon X or need an action figure Vision to go with your Scarlet Witch than this is the place to find them!
Trust me, they have a pretty good selection...
Beyond comics and action figures, you'll find vendors everywhere ready with merch you never realized you needed. Medieval Cat Tarot Cards? Got 'em. Global Warming Coffee Mug? Got 'em. Puppets? Of course, when do you NOT need puppets?!
Be sure to take your camera with you as well, because you can't swing a dead gnome without hitting a cosplayer. You won't just see your run-of-the-mill superheroes either. You'll see video game protagonists, film or TV legends, as well as new and different spins on common characters.
There's even a contest to award all the hard work and creative talent that went into making them!
If you've had your fill of the vendors and are running out of storage space on your camera phone than you can admire the astounding Lego displays...
...before heading over to our old friend the Prop-A-Torium, here to show us even more hand-made, screen used, and replica props from every type of media known to man.
But you wanna know the best part? After you've had such a great time, your conscience can rest easy knowing you've helped make a positive difference. If you bring a non-perishable food item they'll donate it to a food shelf AND you get a dollar off admission! They've donated nearly a quarter of a million free comic books to charities, raised over 100,000 dollars for the Minnesota Lupus Foundation and much more.
By visiting MSP Comicon you're not just fueling your own love of comics, you're supporting a vast community of artists and fans that's growing everyday. Oh! And my collection is now even closer to completion! Thanks MSP Comicon!
Did you go to MSP Comicon this year? If so, what did you like about it? Leave comments below.
For more info on MSP Comicon, visit their website HERE.
Have you ever been to a convention? No? Then why in the world are you reading a geek blog? Don't worry, I'm just kidding. I'm sure quite a few geeks out there, sadly, haven't experienced the awesomeness that is a Comic/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Video Game/Anything Else convention.
Official logo of MarsCon 2015.
Now, I can't speak for every geek and nerd out there, but my hunch for why they're missing out, is because they've heard of the BIG cons. You know, conventions like Comic-Con, Wizard World, or Dragon Con. While these are the ones everyone seems to know about, they are also the most expensive. Some have nothing but pricey merchandise and celebrities who charge you just to look at them [SHATNER!]. Others are renowned for being impossible to attend because tickets go so fast, or because you spend more than half of your time at the con waiting in line for something.
And this is just for the restroom.
Don't get me wrong! There's nothing wrong with all big cons, the experience just may fall short of what many geeks expect. I would love to attend a con like this one-day, but it's just not possible right now with my lack of finances and time. However, those in the same boat as me don't have to feel like they're missing out! Nowadays, you can't swing a dead red shirt without hitting at least one smaller, local comic convention. Not only are cons like these more affordable, but also they have more to offer in terms of entertainment, interactivity, and community. My hope is that I can start a series showcasing some of the best smaller cons in my area. And then, someday, the rest of America!
I'll start off the series with one of my favorites, the first convention I ever went to: MarsCon (MN).
The very first MarsCon was held in 1999 with the intention of attracting geeks and nerds across the board! If science fiction books are your bread and butter, this is the con for you. If you are constantly working on a new cosplay, this is the con for you. If your idea of a perfect night is staying in with friends and playing Magic: The Gathering, this is the con for you. Literally everyone will find something that they like here! Every year they book guests from your favorite TV shows and films as well as some of the best authors of sci-fi and fantasy! And each year has a theme that can be applied to nearly every fandom there is. This years' theme was 'Heroes, Wizards, and Fae...Oh My!' and everyone there took it to heart.
A Klingon Faerie happened...and you missed it.
They have the staples most conventions have. There are a slew of talented local artists who bring amazing artwork in every year for people to bid on. Not just wall art either, but knitted items, jewelry, and (of course) fairy wings. A Masquerade show that showcases not just experienced costumers but beginners, as well as kids, with a prize for each category. Their Masquerade isn't so much about how perfect the crafting is, but about the work, dedication, and passion put into what each of costumers decide to show. They have a Gaming Room for all your RPG and strategy inclinations. By the way, if you're a novice at any game, then have no fear! Everyone there is more than willing to help you assimilate. And of course there's the Dealer's Room, filled with things you didn't realize that you needed until there. Not only is there tons of cool stuff, but also it's all reasonably priced!
Some of the more unusual offerings of MarsCon help with its widespread appeal. The science room hosts interactive exhibits and demonstrations from organizations like the National Space Society, Mars Society, and Twin Cities Makers. This year, they had a simulation of the bridge of the HMS Artemis! The A/V Room shows independent films related to Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as not so independent offerings like Monty Python and classic Saturday morning cartoons! The Prop-A-Torium houses both official and fan-made props from all kinds of films and TV shows. The collections amassed there are nothing short of impressive.
Here there is life-sized, working Daleks. For real.
Perhaps the thing that really sets MarsCon apart is it's own 'MarsCon Dementia Track' a la the infamous Dr. Demento. Every year, a number of comedy artists from around the country, headed by 'The Great Luke Ski,' come to perform throughout the weekend for a very enthusiastic audience. They also host the opening ceremony each year, ensuring that it's entertaining and memorable. I'll confess that I don't often get to stop by their shows (if you haven't figured it out yet, there's lots to do!), but whenever I have the chance to check them out, I always have a blast! If you love 'Weird' Al or are just of fan of anything humorous, you owe it to yourself to spend some time with the Dementia crew.
Where laughs and obscure geek jokes abound! For more info: http://marscondementia.com/
New this year was an Anime/YA room for discussing young adult literature and hosting Anime Showings. Also new was the 'Room of Requirement,' a room especially for the kiddies or adults who act like them. Here you could pretend to be a fairy by posing for photos with oversized props and donning fairy wings, see 'mythical' creatures and reptiles, craft to your hearts content, and play a life- sized version of D&D!
Like this but with dice!
MarsCon is not just about geeking out and having the time of your life, though. You also get to make a difference! They have a blood drive for those interested and this year they accepted donations to the COPD Foundation in memory of Leonard Nimoy. You can also be part of a charity auction, which benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Greater Minnesota) and the Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Even with all of the amazing things offered at MarsCon, its 'shining quality' is its community. Everyone behind-the-scenes is incredibly friendly and passionate not just about the convention, but about the people who attend! They go above and beyond to make each year an immense success and you can tell that they love every moment of it. As someone who first started coming a few years ago, I can honestly say that going to MarsCon was like being with friends I'd forgotten I had.
When it comes down to it, MarsCon is an excellent gateway for the uninitiated. It's small enough that the crowds won't be overwhelming and there are endless things to occupy your time for a very reasonable fee. I guarantee that whilst there, wherever your own interests lie, you will always find a few comrades and friends to make your time there truly memorable.
Did you attend MarsCon 2015? If so, what were your favorite things about it? Do you have any special memories? Share them in the comments section below.
For more info on MarsCon, please visit their website HERE.