by Tee Morris
March 19-21, 2004
St. Louis, Missouri
Where to begin?
When you throw a con, this should be the first question you, the Con Chair, and your staff of dedicated volunteers should ask before the first con attendee arrives. Exactly where do you need to begin to throw a good con? Do you book your guests and then concentrate on the programming? Or is the focus of your weekend concentrated in gaming tournaments, side-stepping the need for the obligatory guests of honor or panel discussions? Or is your plan to kick back with fellow fans and revel a few days away in a three-day party?
Where to begin?
A simple question that needs a simple answer, and with CloverCon 2004, a con in St. Louis held on the week of St. Patrick’s Day, this is a question that should be answered before their 2005 con.
Where to begin?
CloverCon is only in its second year, but they are in desperate need of deciding what kind of convention they want to be. At present, their biggest obstacle is deciding whether or not to be a convention that features guests, panels, and activities, or if they are a “Relaxicon” where Programming is as casual as the con’s attendees. If it doesn’t come to a conclusion as to what it wants to be, Clovercon may fall to a Leprechaun’s curse of bad luck and misfortune in attracting special guests.
I was traveling with Tony Ruggiero from Virginia, hardly “around the corner” from the Show Me State, but we found out that Clovercon’s Media GoH Bob Bergen (the voice of Porky Pig from Cartoon Network’s Duck Dogers) was flown in from Los Angeles, so there was an assumption that this event was ambitious and ready to come out of the box strong. Both of us were assured before flying out there that a schedule for programming would be in place, even though the website (www.clovercon.com) provided vague information for those interested in the weekend. We arrived at registration. No schedule was ready. We got word from the con chair that there would be a schedule in place by Saturday morning, so Tony and I assured ourselves this long trip was not in vain.
When Saturday morning came, so did the schedule. It was bad enough they had me on panels from 10 am to 4 pm with no breaks, but at 12 pm I was scheduled for three different panels in three different locations. “I was up until four this morning putting the schedule together,” said the Con Chair. It was clear that this schedule was, in fact, thrown together with no thought, care, or concern. Tony and I, grabbed breakfast and coffee, sat down, and rescheduled our events, giving ourselves uptime and downtime throughout the day. (A personal note: I doubt if many guests, literary, media, or otherwise, would do something like this. As Clovercon was a new convention, this luxury was offered. Tony and I were also determined to make the trip worthwhile.) Unfortunately, reprogramming our individual Programming did not solve all the issues Clovercon’s lackadaisical attitude spawned. Unlike past new conventions like JerseyDevilCon and ShowMeCon (another local St. Louis SF/F con) that would hold panels in convention rooms, meeting rooms, and (in some cases) hotel rooms, panel areas for Clovercon included the hotel lobby, bar alcoves, and a large banquet room. Perhaps the hotel had nothing else to offer, but what Clovercon offered were not great places for panel discussions. Panel setup was also given an overly casual approach. Media GoH Bob Bergen was told for his voice workshop that “people would just help themselves to chairs when they walk in.” For the price of Clovercon’s (or any con’s) admission, its staff needs to tend to details, provide for their paying customers, and assist their GoHs in presenting their panels or workshops. If this issue remains unaddressed, this con might find it difficult booking GoHs and assorted guests of any kind.
With this being said, why am I planning to go to CloverCon in 2005?
Again I ask, where to begin?
I have visited many cons in my first two years as a writer, but Clovercon featured some of the nicest, sweetest people I have met in fandom. The con staff were thrilled to be there and went out of their way made all the guests feel welcome. The St. Louis hospitality started with a pickup from the airport. A very nice touch. Then we were told that the CloverCon staff had bought several kegs for the weekend in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, so beer at the bar was free until Clovercon’s kegs ran out. (They were empty before Saturday night!) Opening Ceremonies was a mandatory event for all guests. It was mandatory because all the guests, not just the GoHs, were featured and introduced to con attendees present on Friday. That was a very nice, formal introduction. Another impressive trait of Clovercon was its Dealers’ Room. Along with two weapon makers that brought enough inventory to arm a small country, there were collectables (one in particular featured an impressive Farscape collection), anime, and fabrics that would make Hollywood seamstresses swoon! Finally, matching the enthusiasm of the Clovercon staff, the St. Louis fans were extremely amicable. While I still consider myself a “new kid” in the SF/F/H arena (and will for some time, I think), it means a great deal to me when fans welcome me into the fold, making a genuine effort to get to know me and my work, and welcoming me to “the SF/F fandom family.” At Clovercon, they went out of their way to do so. These fans (including the “Pudge Weasels” who inducted me and Tony into their club!) made the trip worthwhile and provided enough motivation for me to plan for Clovercon 2005.
It is this core of people, both Clovercon’s organizers and attendees, that will help this con achieve its potential. I can see it. Only in its second year, Clovercon could very well be a weekend of “Aeryn (Sun) Go Braugh!” and green beer served alongside blue Romulan Ale. I can see that spark. I think this con could grow to be a classic con if its staff buckles down and commits itself to holding a wonderful weekend of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, St Patrick’s Day style. The desire is there. The heart is there. The potential is there. But for Clovercon to reach that pot of gold at the end of the convention, they’ve got to get their act together in Programming, preparation, and a dedication to being what kind of convention it wants to be. Otherwise, CloverCon could fade away, much like a rainbow.