Dragon*Con – the overall con report

September 11th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

Post by sockii.

Yesterday I posted my report on the Dirk Benedict & Dwight Schultz panel at Dragon*Con. This is my day-by-day summary of the convention as a whole.

Thursday, September 3
For once, vespapod and I were leaving early enough that I could hopefully get some dealer’s room and artshow set-up done today. Our plans, however, were nearly thwarted when the radiator in his car went BOOM on the way to the airport! Fortunately we had time to spare to get the tow truck to pick up the car, catch a cab, and not miss our original flight.

We arrived in Atlanta about 2pm, got our bags, got on MARTA, and headed straight to the Marriott Marquis so I could begin dealer’s room setup. My annual, lovely neighbors, Chimera Publishing, had a surprise for me since I’d gotten there early: an extra table! We had to squeeze it in “L”-ways in my table space, but I was hopeful that the additional display area would be beneficial to sales. I did basic set-up and then went to check into my hotel, the Wyndham, where I’d scored a room through the great dragonconrooms community at the last minute. We still had some time to kill before art show set-up would begin, so we headed out for an early dinner at Benihannas. The place is usually too packed to even try to get in once the con officially begins, so it was nice having a chance to have a pleasant dinner before the crowds descended.

Registration line at DragonCon

On our way to the Hyatt, we saw that the registration line was not just out the door at the Sheraton, but stretched well around two blocks! Afterwards I heard that people stood in line for upwards of three hours to get their badges, and the line was even closed early Thursday so some folks had to get right back in it Friday morning. A friend of mine commented that it was far easier to just pay the extra money at the con to buy her badge than to preregister – that the on-site pay line was only about a half-hour long. Me, I’m glad for my dealer’s passes: no lines, no waits, just show up on-site and get my badges! How easy is that?

Vespa helped me with artshow set up and by that point we were done for the night. It had been a long, stressful day, so we headed back to our hotel, had a couple drinks at the bar, and then called it a day.

Friday, September 4
For once I didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to do table set-up, so we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and got back to the Marriott about 10am to finish my table set-up. I was pleased with how much I was able to get out on display with my extra space, and was well ready for the room to open up at 1pm.

Spacial Anomaly Gallery table setup

vespa had a panel to go to right at 1pm, which was fine as Friday sales are usually pretty slow. This definitely proved to be the case: lots of crowds roaming through, but most people were just looking, perhaps mentally making notes on what they would like to come back for later (if they had the money after buying photo sessions and autographs.) vespa returned and then I left for the Dirk & Dwight panel, as described previously.

The room closed at 7pm. My numbers were a little low compared to Friday’s for last year, but I was still optimistic. I met up with a friend and we all had dinner together at Azio, a pretty decent (if pricey) Italian place, and then crawled the Marriott, checking out the costumes, posing for photos with everyone from R2-D2 to Jack Sparrow, and then hanging out at the Marriott bar until exhaustion took over.

Cylons invade the Marriott!

Saturday, September 5
Saturday came and I was hoping for big sales – last year it was my best single day of the con. Unfortunately, this year it would be my single worst day. The dealers room was quite often dead, and what people who were there didn’t seem to have much money to spend. I talked to a couple other dealers who were experiencing the same thing, although some others seemed to be doing ok. After talking to some friends and other folks, though, we decided that the slow sales were perhaps due not just to the slow economy but the huge amounts of money people were paying for autographs and photo sessions with the three main guests this year: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Stewart. It was $200 to get a photo with Patrick – and that’s before getting an autograph on it, too! I know a lot of people were balking about these prices before the con, saying they weren’t going to pay it, that it was unfair…and yet, the lines were continually back out on the street for their photosessions and I know a lot of people who DID pay the price. And stand in hours-long lines after lines not just for the photos, but then to see these guests in their panels.

So I really think that all contributed to the slower sales for dealers. It’s kind of a Catch 22: you want big name guests to draw attendees to the event, and yet if they are TOO popular and their autographs TOO in demand, those numbers don’t necessarily translate into better sales for the vendors.

At the end of sales hours I was feeling pretty bummed out, for certain. vespa and I had dinner on our own at a sushi place a little off the main track of foot traffic and spend a little while checking out costumes that night. But my heart wasn’t all that much in it at that point. I had paid and posed for an official shot with Dirk & Dwight that evening, so the one thing I was looking forward to on Sunday was seeing how my photo turned out!

Sunday, September 6
Sunday we got to the Marriott about 9am, as I was eager to pick up my photo which was supposed to be ready at that time. That was when I learned that Froggy, the guy who did the photo sessions, had had virtually all of his equipment stolen that night! The lock to the storage room had been broken and someone stole the camera equipment, AND the laptop with all of the photos stored on it. Fortunately, the Dirk and Dwight pics had been printed the night before, and the theives had not stolen any of the already printed pictures – whew! But I felt really bad for the folks who were now going to have to either get a refund or try to get their shots retaken, now would not receive digital copies they’d paid for, etc. Not fun, and given their system for tracking who asked for/paid for what is a little loose and confusing, I wonder how they actually managed to sort it all out.

Still, my picture turned out really great so I was happy.

After re-setting up for the day, vespa left to go to one of the Dukes of Hazzard panels, which he said was a lot of fun as there was only about 15 people there, so they could have a real conversation instead of a large group talk. I then headed out for a break from the table, debating whether I’d go to a wikipedia talk or to Dirk Benedict’s solo panel. On the way there, however, I was distracted by a woman in an AMAZING H.M. Murdock costume. Even more amazing, it turned out we were long-lost friends from our mutual days in Xena fandom. So instead of the wiki panel I ended up catching up with her for about a half hour. We then wandered into Dirk’s talk, but I have to confess I was getting a little bored after about a half hour and slipped out to head to the Walk of Fame and see if Dwight was there.

He was, and I got my picture from the day before signed. This time we had a little more time to talk and I mentioned I was friends with John Glover, a former classmate of Dwight’s from Towson. That set off a really fun conversation. After that, I checked back at my dealer’s table – still pretty slow – so I went back to the Walk of Fame once Dirk’s panel was up so I could get his autograph on my photo as well. He commented on how much fun they were having during the photos and it definitely shows!

Dirk, sockii and Dwight

After that was done, I pretty much stuck around my table save to hover in the artshow when bidding closed at 6pm. Sales there were ok – I moved about 2/3rd of the paintings I brought, even if mostly at minimum bid, and my mom did similar on her jewelry which I was agenting. Print shop sales were kind of slow for me, however. After that it was time to close the dealer’s room for the night. We met up with a local friend for a nice dinner at a nearby brewpub. After that, we were kind of too tired to do any more hotel crawling, so we called it an early night. Sales were still way down, though I was at least out of the red. I didn’t sleep that well, however, trying to scheme how to pull the con more into the black for me on the last day.

Monday, September 7
Mondays are always crazy for me at Dragon*Con. First I had to rush over to the Art Show to get a check-out number at 9am. I got there early, which was a good thing as they started giving out numbers early as well. I would be 6th for checkout at 4pm, which was good. Got back to the dealer’s table and, once vespa was set up to handle sales, I had to run stand in the line to buy my table space for 2010.

This line took soooooo long. I was in it for about an hour, as the only people moving fast were those paying in cash. Finally they added an extra helper to take checks, and I handed over my money anxiously – despite the poor sales this year, I am going for broke next year and paid the extra money for a second tale. *gulp* Guess we’ll find out in 2010 if it pays off…

vespa was ringing my cell yelling at me to get back as soon as I could. Sales were picking up, and to help that along we started doing some big discounts…30% off everything…it really helped even if it cut down on the profit per sale. With the push to move merchandise, at closing at 5pm (and combined with my art show sales), I estimated I was only down a couple hundred dollars from last year’s tally. Not great but I’d live with it. I got my stuff out of the art show and we did the mad pack-up, which took about 90 minutes. Made it to the airport with about three hours to spare before our flight.

I was completely exhausted and so was vespa. It was a long, long weekend and it’s taken me a good three days after the fact to begin to feel back to normal at all. I always feel like Dragon*Con is an endurance race, and by the end I want to sleep for about a week solid. I also don’t want to see many human beings for a while either as the crowds get really, really old, really fast. Even so, we managed to have a pretty good time and I’m going to look forward to next year’s con. Though you might hear me hoping that next year, they won’t have such big name headlining guests…!

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If you’re thinking about checking out Dragon*Con for yourself in the future, be sure to check out my Guide to Dragon*Con.

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