Saturday, June 29, 2013

Santa Rosa Toy Con 2013

Santa Rosa Toy Con was the first convention of any interest held local to me, so I was really hoping it would go well. I had some concerns about it, some of which proved to be unfounded, and in the end, I was pleasantly surprised.

As this is the con's first year, it was a one-day event, held inside a hanger at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. In the middle of summer, the weather was somewhere around 100 degrees, making for people bleeding sweat in their costumes, and vendors charging through the roof for drinks. Inside the convention, the shade made it slightly cooler, but even with the AC on, it was still pretty warm inside. Still, cosplayers and con-goers worked through the heat, and managed to stay hydrated.

Admittedly, the cost of going to the convention was a little high for a one-day, first year event. The fifteen dollar admission fee, in addition to the eight dollar parking fee for those who wanted to park right outside. One could avoid that additional cost by finding parking farther away, although I knew I'd be walking back and forth between my car on occasion, so I opted to pay the parking. I assume the fifteen dollar admission fee is necessary for covering the expenses of bringing in all the guests, which is acceptable, but hopefully they'll be able to lower the prices next year, since cons like Sac Con can bring in just as many guests twice a year and only charge six dollars.

At the convention itself, there were rows of booths for vendors, artists, and guests. There was a great variety, including guests from Star Wars groups such as the 501st Legion and groups of Jedi, people selling vintage toys, comics, and custom artwork, and guests such as Lou Ferrigno and professional wrestler The Honkey-Tonk Man. There were also fan groups, such as a "Bronies of Northern California," and a group of cosplayers calling themselves "The Superhero Experience," who helped make the experience even better for the guests.

The Superhero Experience

Stormtroopers of the 501st

Astromech droids

While most of my purchases were spent on refreshments (shaved ice helped me get through the heat quite well), I also spent a little on raffle tickets, hoping to win a replica lightsaber. I didn't win, of course, but hopefully my money will help make the next year better.

There was also a stage, where some panels were being held. While I mostly stopped and sat there to rest my feet, there were some interesting panels, such as writing about vampires in a post-Twilight world.

I showed up to the convention dressed as Flynn Rider from "Tangled," and managed to get a few pictures in. I wanted to give that one a test run, although as I didn't make anything except the pouch (which turned out to be incredibly useful throughout the day) I didn't want to enter the contest in it. Instead, I switched into Melon Lord from "Avatar: The Last Airbender," which went over quite well with attendees, although it was not the most comfortable thing to wear in the sweltering heat.

When it was time for the contest, those who entered were unsure of where to go. The sign by the stage where the panels were held made it seem like it would be there, but another sign said it would be held outside. Turns out it was outside indeed, so we went into the bright sunlight and heat to go through the contest.

I wasn't sure how the contest would go, since there was no pre-judging, no craftsmanship discussions or questions, and only a single prize for a single winner. In the end, they had us walk on stage one at a time, pose a bit, then walk off. I don't know what criteria the judges were using, but when I walked on stage and called out "I am not Toph! I am MELON LORD! Mwahaha!" the emcee asked me to do martial arts moves. I guess he wasn't familiar with the character, but when I mentioned that I'm pretty much a giant watermelon scarecrow, he kept insisting, so I pulled some Earthbending moves. Although since they also called me "pumpkin head," rather than "Melon Lord," I assume they didn't check the sign-up sheet to see who was cosplaying as what.

Once the top ten were chosen, a winner was picked by audience applause. While the winner, a Bumblebee cosplayer from the aforementioned "The Superhero Experience," was very well deserving of the prize, I tend not to like it when winners are decided by audience applause. Although I am a little disappointed at my experience, those who did make the top ten had great costumes, and deserved recognition. I was actually surprised at the high level of cosplayers that attended, give the con's first year, but the offer of a $500 prize is very enticing.

I may be a little too critical of the contest, but in spite of all that, I still felt it went pretty well for its first year. I hope that in later years they can improve on it, and bring in judges who are experienced cosplayers and can actually talk to the contestants about what went into creating the costume, judging on craftsmanship. There was no chance to perform a skit either, which could be a nice addition next time. I spoke to other cosplayers, and they all felt that having multiple prizes and categories would be an improvement, rather than just a single prize. That's just the advice I have to offer, based off my experiences at conventions, but that experience is pretty vast.

Jedi Knights

Thor, god of thunder, decided not to bring any rain today
Ms. Marvel

After the contest, I waited to see how the raffle ended, and left after that. All in all, I was pretty pleased with the convention. While I have some issues, which I mentioned, for a convention's first year, it went better than I expected. I met some great people, who I hope to encounter again, and it had plenty going for it. I hope to see it improving further in future years, as it can become even better in time, and perhaps bring in even more attendees from outside Sonoma County. It was worth bearing the heat to go to a local con with the kind of attendees that I met that day, and I look forward to seeing how it improves.

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