I attended Fandom Con at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Ft. Walton Beach, FL this year as a vendor! It’s not too far of a drive for me and when I looked up attendance numbers, it was just under 2k last year. I figured it would hit the low 2k range this year and it would be a good opportunity for some exposure for Mags (my artist friend) and a small group of our friends also wanted to take a mini vacation there!
Since November is off season for the hotels and condos there (I think?) we managed to book an awesome deal for a condo through airbnb. I snagged a 2 bedroom condo for $285 that weekend. It had a kitchen, living room, dining room, 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms. It fit myself, Mags, and 3 friends with plenty of room to spare! Plus, it was right on the beach! The Gulf of Mexico was literally our backyard. This was our view.
When I got the artist alley layout and my table on the map, I was really excited because we were located right next to the entrance. We were table 21! This seemed like an awesome spot until we got there and I realized that the artist alley was just a bunch of tables wrapped around the exhibitor’s hall in a tight little hallway. So to get to our table, you’d have to go straight but all the panels, exhibitor hall entrance, concessions, and about 99% of the events taking place were in the direction of table 18 and 19. Because of this, most of the attendees would make a sharp right rather than going straight. This resulted in little to no traffic for us and an awkwardly quiet hallway. I was frustrated with how bad the setup was, but there wasn’t really much I could do at that point. Oh well, I just had to deal with it. The convention was small enough that I believe most of the attendees saw our table at least once. I didn’t do much exploring, only briefly walking through the rest of the artist alley and dealer’s room. It didn’t seem like there was much to it. I was pretty disappointed with everything. Even the programming didn’t seem that great. I asked everyone when they came up to us how the convention was going for them. The answers contrasted a lot! Either people were having a great time or they were completely bored out of their minds. There wasn’t really any in between. There were a handful of cosplayers, but I didn’t really get a chance to snap pics of them. I only got 2, one of a Sango and the other was actually a customer who commissioned us.
The girl on the right was incredibly sweet! I wasn’t familiar with who she was cosplaying as but I remember it being really accurate when I looked it up. The next day, she was dressed as an excellent Poison Ivy but I forgot to ask her if I could take a picture of her. UGH. She was so gorgeous!
The concessions at this convention center weren’t that great to me. I think they only offered burgers and hot dogs? Something along the lines of that. There were no food trucks or anything. I learned from my first experience and packed up food, but I forgot to pack up utensils.. so I made do with some eyeliner I found in my backpack as chopsticks. Doesn’t it look delicious? I was eating some instant jajangmyeon (black bean noodles). Yum! We also had shin ramen, but I didn’t take a picture of it. Mags ended up eating that and I ate the jajangmyeon. Throughout the weekend, I ate a lot of instant noodles and mcdonalds. I could’ve gotten other things as we went to some great restaurants nearby, but I was craving instant noodles for some reason.
Sales were extremely slow all 3 days we were there. I spent most of my time eating instant noodles and playing on my ipad. Mags went to go play smash briefly, but he told me that there weren’t many good players and got bored. Plus, the moment he left, we got a few people who asked about commissions and I had to ask him to come back. Sorry Mags! ;_; ! We remembered to get business cards and clear plastic covers for the prints this time which was nice! By the end of the trip, we went just barely below breaking even. It wasn’t that big of a deal to me because I treated it as a sort of mini vacation for Mags and I. He had been working really hard, so I figured this was a good opportunity to go chill at a condo on the beach and eat good seafood, which we definitely did.
The first day we got there, Mags and I set up our table at AA then went to have lunch with my friends at this little dive-y seafood restaurant near the convention center. It was probably about a mile down the road or so. The prices were a little higher than what I had hoped for, but the portions were huge! 1 meal was enough to fill up both Mags and I (and he eats quite a bit). We had fried shrimp, fries, hush puppies, and cole slaw. Yummy! It was a pretty big mound of food and it was great. The second place we went to for dinner the next day was alright. The view made up for it, though. We were seated outside, right on the water. It was cool outside and the sky was clear so we had a great view of all the stars as we ate dinner. There was some big football game going on and there were crowds around the bar cheering and yelling each time something happened. It wasn’t the restaurant’s fault, but it was annoying hearing really loud cheering or yelling every 5 minutes.
Overall, the trip itself was great but the convention was pretty lackluster. The panels didn’t seem very interesting, the artist alley setup was really strange to me, and the attendance and sales were really low. I went back to look at attendance numbers for this convention, and it was at 1.4k. That was a huge drop from last years attendance! We got a little bit of exposure, but I didn’t see much of a difference in our website hits and/or Facebook likes. Meh. I might try again one more time next year because of the beautiful location, but if we don’t at least break even, I think I’ll pass for 2017.