Con Review: ConCarolinas 2009

Layout 1by Tera Fulbright

 

ConCarolinas 2009
May 29–31, 2009
Charlotte, North Carolina
http://www.concarolinas.org

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.

 

Con Review: ConCarolinas 2005

ConCarolinas2005by Michael D. Pederson

 

ConCarolinas 2005
June 3-5, 2005
Charlotte, North Carolina
http://www.concarolinas.org/

I fought thunder storms and rush-hour traffic to make it to Charlotte by early evening. I arrived a little worse for wear.

My first stop—after checking into my room and cranking the AC to fight back the oppressive southern humidity—was the bar. I remembered from the previous year that they served Guinness in the nitro cans and that was just what I needed. On arriving I discovered that Tee Morris and Tony Ruggiero had already beaten me there. A couple of pints later I had gotten the scoop on Tee and Tony’s book tour and was ready to join the real world, or at least the con world. I sat in on Tony’s panel on “The Role of Modern Day Vampires” and then retreated to the bar for dinner. Tee introduced me to writer/podcaster Mur Lafferty and then it was off to my first panel, “Internet Publishing.” The turnout was pretty good for a Friday night panel and it was the only one I had scheduled, leaving me free for the rest of the night.

Apart from myself, what else was going on at the con? Guests of Honor included Greg Keyes (Writer), Farscape’s David Franklin (Media), and The Great Luke Ski (Filk). Horror movie icons Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) and Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th) were on hand for autograph sessions as well.

Saturday was my busy day. I was scheduled on panels from 10:00-4:00 and then for a signing from 4:00-5:00. Seven hours, no break. Now, I’m not one to complain and I do like being on as many panels as possible but a lunch break would have been nice in there. Just something for programmers to think about in the future. On the plus side though I got to have dinner with Ken Foree, so there was some karmic balance.

Saturday night started off back in the bar. The cliche really is true, many writers and editors do spend a lot of time at cons in the bar. Especially at ConCarolinas. The Marriott Executive Park has got a very nice bar with an excellent staff. The group gathered there that night included SMOFs, writers, actors, editors and fen. A real cross-section of fandom. Saturday night is also the best night for events at the con too though, so after a couple hours it was back to the con for Klingon karaoke. Also got to catch some of Luke’s concert—funny stuff, as always. We also made it to the Stellarcon pirate party for some pretty serious rum concoctions. Sadly, I missed the dueling Slave Leia costumes at the Masquerade. I hear that they were quite the hit.

After the traffic nightmare on Friday afternoon I had vowed never to return to Charlotte for another con but by Sunday morning I was making plans for next year. ConCarolinas does a fantastic job of mixing Literary and Media programming and also provides a large, well-attended Gaming Room—a great recipe for bringing in a younger generation of fans.

Here are a few photo highlights from the convention, courtesy of Peggy Cobb Gregory…

 

Con Review: ConCarolinas 2004

ConCarolinas2004by Michael D. Pederson

 

ConCarolinas 2004
June 4-6, 2004
Charlotte, North Carolina

Held one week after a very exhausting (in a good way) Balticon and a five-hour drive away, ConCarolinas could very easily have been a total letdown. But noooooo… They had to go and throw a darned good convention. Bastards!

First off, let me say that North Carolina has some of the best organized fan groups on the East Coast—The Klingon Assault Group (KAG), Starfleet, the SCA, the Stargate SG11 Costuming Group, Star Wars Fanworks, the Carolina Scapers, the 501st Stormtroopers Carolina Garrison, and a boatload of pirates were among the many groups represented there. Attendance was high enough that there were concerns as to whether or not the hotel would be able to accommodate everyone (it did). The fantastic turnout was probably due to the booking of Alan Dean Foster as the Guest of Honor. I’m sure that having Artist GoH Joe Corroney (Marvel, DC, and Lucasfilm are just part of his resumé) and Fan GoH Michael D. Pederson didn’t hurt either. Yep, that’s right. My first GoH! How exciting!! I need more exclamation marks!!!

One of the things that impressed me most about the con (aside from the incredibly personal face-to-face attention from the staff) was the programming schedule. They really went out off their way to do more than just the standard fare. Cool stuff included: family game night, a Star Wars radio drama, a kid’s scavenger hunt, rocket building, Shakespeare in Fantasy and Horror, How to Get into Film, and the First Annual ConCarolinas Film Premiere where I got to see Fall of a Saga, which I had missed at Balticon. My favorite moment though came when the Philosophy panel re-convened in the bar to sing Monty Python’s “Philosophy Song.”

After spending a great weekend hanging out with old friends, making some new ones, and partying with pirates the drive home didn’t seem quite so long.

 

Here are some photos of the convention, courtesy of Peggy Cobb Gregory…