May 29–31, 2009
Charlotte, North Carolina
Born from the ashes of a failed Worldcon bid, ConCarolinas 2009 became the first local fan-run SF/F convention to cross the 1000-attendee mark in several years. I knew it was going to be an interesting convention when we walked past a pre-registration line that wrapped around the halls.
ConCarolinas has had an excellent relationship with the Marriott for the past several years. However, the convention moved to a new location this year—the Charlotte Hilton University Place—and the new hotel responded well to the convention and its attendees. Room rates were still reasonable at less than $100 per night. In addition to more convention space for gaming, programming and fan tables, the hotel provided very affordable concessions. The hotel space was nice with lots of chairs and other “hang-out” locations but some areas were darker than others and could have used a little extra light.
This year’s Writer GOH was Katherine Kurtz, one of my all-time favorite authors. She’s incredibly personable and doesn’t dominate the panels she’s on. Kathy Mar was the Music Guest of Honor and Alan Welch was the Artist Guest of Honor. ConCarolinas had special Media Guests in Anthony Forrest, Charles Root, and Brandon Stacy. Anthony Forrest, in particular, seemed to have a long line of stormtroopers waiting for his signature at each signing. Other guests included Cheralyn Lambeth, Stephen Euin Cobb, Tony Ruggiero, Davey Beauchamp, and many more. ConCarolinas invites a variety of guests from authors and actors to gaming and paranormal experts, which helps diversify the convention’s attendees and provides for a well-rounded event.
The convention itself is well organized and seemed to run seamlessly even with the added influx of attendees. Programming information was provided a few weeks before the con itself and seemed to remain close to the published schedule. One of the best things about ConCarolinas is their Dealers’ Room. It always has a wide range of vendors, from gaming and costuming to jewelry and swords.
The only major complaint seemed to revolve around the consuite trying to limit its visitors to certain types of attendees during certain hours. I heard several people complain about being told they had to leave the consuite so that specific attendees (i.e. guests and dealers) could be the only ones allowed in. I know the Con Chair did try to remedy the situation but it seemed to be a bit of an issue throughout the weekend. I’ve heard that there are plans for ConCarolinas to add a Green Room next year for dealers and guests which should eliminate the problem.
The panels and special events all seemed well attended, and fans seemed to gather in every nook and cranny of the space. Adding new events like the Pirate Stage Combat Demo and Nerf Wars to regular events like Klingon Karaoke and the Zombie Walk allowed fans and fan groups to get involved in the convention programming. The fan groups continued to show their support with large contingents of pirates, stormtroopers, SCAdians, StarGaters, and Klingons wandering the halls throughout the weekend. Rock Band had been set up in one hall and there seemed to be a never-ending flow of music and sound from that area. Glancing into the gaming room showed tables filled with gamers, maps, and miniatures.
As always, ConCarolinas is an excellent convention for fans by fans. With ConCarolinas hosting DeepSouthCon 48 in 2010, I look forward to seeing what next year brings.