by Michael D. Pederson
January 21-23, 2005
I’ve been attending MarsCon for a long time now and, frankly, have begun to feel that I’m only attending out of loyalty (they were the first con to have me as a guest way back when). This year though, they made some sweeping changes that have gone a long way to revitalizing this little ol’ relaxacon.
But before I get to the good, I’m sorry to say that there was a lot of bad mojo this year—all of it completely out of the con’s control. First off there was Arisia’s decision to change their date to the same weekend as MarsCon. I’m sure that there weren’t many central Virginia fans that changed their plans because of the earlier Boston con but I know that there were a handful of pros that skipped MarsCon for Arisia. Then there was the inclement weather. A mix of ice and snow that stretched from North Carolina to New England kept a lot of people home that weekend. Worst of all though was the hotel’s last-minute cancellation of the con’s room block. One month before MarsCon, it was announced that the hotel was needed as barracks for troops that were preparing to be sent overseas. All of the convention space was still usable but room reservations were moved to a Super 8, half a mile away.
But despite all of the problems, this was the most enjoyable MarsCon in years. Not being able to crawl back to your room to take a break made it look like a very active con (even though attendance was down to 300 from it’s usual 500). Plus, there was a lot more to do this year. MarsCon’s old “fans are just here to relax” policy has given way to a new “let’s keep them entertained” policy. As in the past, they favor interactive workshops over panels and lectures and added some new ones. This year’s workshops included Mendhi, doll making, writing, poetry, art, photography, armor crafting, filking, makeup, salsa dancing, and swing dancing.
One of the best changes to MarsCon this year was the addition of Coyote Run, a local Celtic band. For two hours people forgot the sleet coming down outside and boogied in the aisles of a packed ballroom. Two thumbs up, I hope to see them again next year.
And, of course, it isn’t a proper convention without room parties. Not having a room in the hotel slowed things down at first but we were able to “borrow” the con suite from 9:00 to 3:00 Saturday night to host our usual bash. Two other groups that had planned on throwing parties, but had no space, also joined in and kept the party SRO all night long.
A final word to the 200 people that were unable to attend this year… You missed the best MarsCon in years. The convention is already negotiating with a new hotel for next year, so I expect things to be even better in ’06.