CONvergence 2011

Thursday | Thu/Fri | Friday | Fri/Sat | Sat/Sun

 Several years ago, before I got into the habit of driving myself to conventions and booking hotel rooms for my group, I stated that I like to take a look at groups I could possibly get rides or crash space with and take the best offers. Lately, I've been the one trying to get other people to crash with us, so I was a little rusty when CONvergence came calling. By the time I was able to commit to the convention, reserving a hotel room was out of the question. Among Geek.Kon staff, everybody was either lodging off-site or were hardcore costumers giving floorspace priority to costumes and props. An unlikely savior emerged when Rae, a former judge/participant at Geek.Kon and No Brand's masquerades offered crash space. All I had to do was help out with her room party. No problem, right? I've already run two this year. Heck, one was in the same hotel.

If you know anything about the room party scene at CONvergence, you're thinking I should have run away screaming at this point. Alas, I knew what I was getting into, and was actually looking forward to it.

This may be contrary to several things you may know about me. Time to blow your mind.

Thursday
Alohomora

This is the second consecutive recap with a Thursday section. How about that?

It's not the second consecutive con, however. Two weeks ago, I went to QC Anime-zing. The best parts were sneaking off to a baseball game Saturday night, playing Harry Potter Clue with Mike, Autumn and Neil during our Sunday table shift and watching a good chunk of AMV Hell 5 (which at first glance appeared to be much better than 4). We also stopped at the Natalie Memorial Dairy Queen on our way back. Yippee.

The drive to CONvergence was weird... thankfully not in the horror story producing way. Sarah couldn't afford the trip and Evan couldn't get off work, so this was my first solo trip in more than two years. Thankfully, even though I own a copy of the book, I checked out the audiobook of Neil Gaiman's American Gods to keep me company. Very appropriate for car trips through northern Wisconsin.

Anyway, what's so unremarkable about having a Thursday section is that this is a four-day con. It's also at the same hotel Anime Detour was at, so I'm at least familiar with the lay of the land.

Welcome home. Registration was exceedingly simple, so I went to find Rae and get into the room before seeing how this con handled their layout. So off to Hogwarts I went.

Yes, Hogwarts. The room party (or rather parties) in question were Harry Potter themed. We were re-creating the commons rooms for the Gryffindor and Slytherin houses, complete with a Great Hall for serving butterbeer and pumpkin bars. Slytherin was open, so I popped in and found a number of people that I had never met and whom probably had no idea I was helping.

Sneak peek into Gryffindor, with very minimal preparations were done. Slytherin was mostly in place, just massively crowded with bags, costumes and extra props.

Rae wasn't there yet, and no further magic could happen until she arrived, so I took a look around the convention and realized just how different it felt.

Unlike the anime cons that I usually frequent, CONvergence is like Geek.Kon fused with OddCon and taking steroid shooters. It emphasizes everything, particularly sci-fi and fantasy, but with plenty of anime and counter-culture awesomeness thrown in for good measure. The real kick was all the signs. Signs for programming rooms with clever names. Signs for room parties advertising all sorts of craziness. Banners for staff rooms and con suites that stretch out across the atrium. Even though I've already been to a con at this hotel and the actual offerings weren't technically dissimilar from many other cons, I spent a good half hour walking around feeling like I've never been to a convention before. Talking with Mike later that day, he said he felt the same way. And he's been to more cons than I have.

There was also a statue of Connie, their mascot.

When Rae arrived, we scrambled around, removing beds, hauling stuff from her van and setting up pipe and drape for our room party. This is nothing unusual for room parties here. After getting the heavy lifting situated, John stole me and introduced me to their con suite.

This is but a small part of it. The exit if you will. In reality, it stretches over five hotel rooms (plus prep and storage rooms) and includes offerings of soup, rice, PB&J sandwiches, milk, soda, candy, random snacks, and occasionally subs and pizza if you show up at just the right time. It's said that the higher registration fee (which isn't that much higher than ACen or Iowa) is justified because you don't need to buy food over the weekend. I trusted them on that and only brought my six-pack of soda instead of my usual provisions. Sure enough, John and I got bowls of rice with all sorts of seasoning selections and it served nicely as dinner for the night.

Having been informed that Opening Ceremonies was not to be missed, I went to Opening Ceremonies, finding Sarah and Rosanna already inside.

The Mainstage. Actually, the room was surprisingly small considering the size of the convention.

Opening Ceremonies was organized and executed really well. It had an opening video spoofing Ghost Hunters worth a lot of laughs, along with several interactions between the MC and an on-screen Connie. There were also speeches from several different department heads and even an awards show for audio dramas.

They also used a skit featuring a second future Connie onstage warning of a future energy crisis that only a steampunk-era invention could remedy. On-screen Connie immediately recognized it as a set-up to a trivia game spread throughout the con. It was simple, silly, disposable and still had better production than most No Brand story arcs.

From a distance, the banners unfurled.

Returning to the room, I changed into my costume and helped with final preparations. The part about Convergence taking its room parties seriously proved quite true as there was a crowd gathering outside waiting to get into our rooms and see what we had to offer. Awesome as this sounds, it wasn't so great when last-minute Gryffindor preparations put us behind.

The delay gave me a chance to get some pre-show pictures.

Hermoine, Draco and not-in-costume Harry practice some lines for tomorrow's festivities.

In-costume Harry runs between me and my shot of the potions on Slytherin's display case. Bloody Potter always has to be the center of attention.

That's better. For some reason, a (pretty damn detailed) copy of the Marauder's Map was put on the Slytherin shelves, defying my efforts to have it moved to Gryffindor.

Delores Umbridge (and her hell hound pup Bandit) sips tea with a picture of Cornelius Fudge in the corner. On the desk, a quill pen and copies of our NEWT exams, an insanely difficult HP trivia quiz to counter Gryffindor's more reasonable OWL exams.

More decorations...

Gryffindor is finally set up, and Molly Weasley does some knitting on their cozy chairs.

We open the doors and a throng of people step into both rooms. I'm in position...

This is what I do for lodging these days.