Greetings all, Gary here!
After more nearly 14 months of waiting (thanks BotCon!), it is our time. It is time for JOE CON.
I’ll tell you what, the last year has been a challenge. Personally it has been hurdle after hurdle. Anyone that knows me knows that I could have easily thrown in the towel at any time and said, “Ya know, I’ve had an impressive 6 year run, but you can’t make them all.” Karma, fate, luck, club anger – you name it – if it was a variable NOT go to the con this year, it has been presented to me. In fact, as little as a week ago, we found out we had to take our daughter. Granted, there is nothing wrong with including the entire family. This will be her 3rd con in person – 4th if you count the womb. We are going to have a GREAT TIME! Nothing is going to sidetrack my convention experience this year – Not a sub par con set; not the non-responsive and out-of-touch club staff; not the economy; NOTHING!! In the famous words of David Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay – “DAMN THE TORPEDOES, FULL SPEED AHEAD!!”
Hopefully by now for those going, everyone is registered, have plane tickets, reserved a room, and have a ride from the airport. This is also about the time we see another rash of forum posts asking about the con – tips, suggestions, meet ups, etc. Allow me to help you out on some of those common questions. I am writing this mostly on the perspective of what a first-time con goer may be interested in.
This will be a multi-parter article. Part 1 will cover the most stressful part of the weekend, arrival and registration.
The excitement is high as you are traveling to your first convention and probably to a city you have never been to before. What a great adventure you have ahead of you! My first convention was in San Francisco in 2003. I had never been to Frisco before this trip. I knew no one when I got there. The only thing that told me there was a GI Joe Convention there was a sign near the front desk at the hotel. I was just a little 3.75″ fish in a giant 12″ collector’s world.
Get squared away and then get the lay of the land. Scout out the meeting rooms, places to eat and the ever popular hotel lounge. You may also want to take this time to get some last minute rest because it might be the last chance you get to catch up on sleep for the rest of the weekend. If you are short for time, find someone who got in early. They can direct you to nearby points of interest.
THURSDAY – REGISTRATION NIGHT!
Registration night is chaotic. The club tries hard to keep it somewhat organized, but typically something always goes wrong. Amazingly enough, the club is learning though. Last year was a smooth registration. No CC machine failures, there were plenty of forms, most everything was on hand in the club store, and all the con sets were on site and ready to go. The line even moved quickly, but I attribute that to the awesome club volunteers who worked the line.
I separate registration into two phases. PHASE 1: Waiting in line to register. PHASE 2: Waiting in line at the club store. Set aside AT LEAST an hour in each phase not counting any time spent lining up early. In the past registration night is a lesson in the adage of HURRY UP AND WAIT. No registration night has ever been worse then the 4 hours many spent in line in 2004. I expect attendance to be down this year, so I don’t expect registration night repeat the horror of Disney.
First and foremost, the most definitive info on what to do and bring for registration night can atill be found on a thread authored by GeneralsJoes friend, Werecat, on Joesightings.com. It is a 2006 post, but 90% or more of it is STILL relative to the experience you will face in a few weeks. I guess that shows us how slow the club is to change. Oops, I didn’t mean to type that.
So, before searching ANYTHING else, hit this thread. We’ll wait for you…….
On top of what Werecat spec’ed out, you may also want to bring something to write on, such as a clipboard. A backpack or other bag may be helpful to haul everything back to your room.
Unless you arrive early for the pre-convention events, you will register on Thursday night. Those that enroll in the early events will get their con sets Wednesday so they can proceed directly to phase two on Thursday night. Depending on what color your form is that accompanied your snailmailed invoice, you will either go in the early registration group or late registration group. Hint: if you got green, you go first. It would seem that the GIJCC has got wiser and have marked your invoice with a marker dot too. If you got a green form, you should have got a green marker dot on your invoice. This is done as an attempt to prevent the late registration people from going to Kinkos and running off a green copy for themselves. I am assuming that the club staff also has their hard copy of your invoice identically marked. BRING YOUR INVOICE, COLORED FORM AND A PHOTO ID WITH YOU TO REGISTER. In fact, you cannot get into line without your ID. Bring all of this and your registration process go MUCH smoother. Also, if you had ANY email exchanges with the club concerning the changing of your initial registration (ie adding an aide, purchase another set, etc), print those off and bring them too. This may be your only proof that you authorized a change.
Lining up early! I remember at the SF con in ’03, lining up 15-30 minutes early was a-ok. Since the fiasco at Disney, I have bumped that up to 1 – 2 HOURS early. Seem a bit early to line up? Don’t worry, there are plenty of things to do in line – hang out and enjoy! However, regardless of how early you get there, good ol’ Tazzzman will be first and Madmac will be setup tailgate style with beer in hand.
Speaking of hanging out, be sure to be social in line. Be patient, the line is ALWAYS slow. Take this time to meet your fellow collector. The club for the last two years have asked for our screen names at registration time. There was hope there that they would put them on our badges. For some reason, last year they did not use that info. Maybe this year. Irregardless, take a moment to greet the people around you. After a while you will be talking to people on a first name (or sometimes “first alias” basis). You will hear folks referring to others by their online names, such as Tazzz, Card, YoHo and Nomad – and in the same breath refer to others as Jay, Kevin, George, Jason and “that guy who dressed up as Raptor in New Orleans”. It seems a bit crazy to mix real-life names and on-line names, but it is the nature of socializing at the con.
Before registration begins, club president, Brian Savage, pulls out the megaphone to go over the process, tell you what the attendee exclusive is, and FINALLY introduce us to this year’s Convention Souvenirs. It is commonly mistaken that the boxed set and con souvenirs are typically considered the same. This is not the case. The boxed set is what you get at registration time. The con souvenirs are what you buy from the club store. Savage will hold up the items, tell everyone what it is, tell what the production run was limited to, tell the price it will be sold for and tell you if there are any purchase limits that have been set. I can tell you this year, there WILL be purchase limits on Thursday and Friday AND early information indicates this year you will actually have your con badge stamped or punched so someone will know what you have bought by just simply looking at it.
Once you get your convention packages, (phase 1 complete) then it is off to the club store line (dreaded phase 2). There you will get an order form where you mark down what you want. You get to pick ANOTHER line at this time – a credit card line or a cash line. As you would guess, in this digital world we live in, the analog modem of the CC machine causes this line to move at a crawl. So bring cash. How much you ask? Well, it depends. Last year if you got one of everything (3.75″ scale), it was around $200. It has been more in previous years, but with the economic crunch that is effecting everyone, I expect this year’s total not to surpass last year’s very much. However, be flexible. The club has told us ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on how much to bring and INSIST on surprising us. :rolleyes:
When finished with the club store, you take your haul back to your room for another inspection. Take special note of the convention survey, door prize ticket and convention program. Make sure you set some time aside to fill the survey out. The club puts a lot of weight into these and once again, it is real surprising in this digital world how much the club relies on us pressing ink to paper for feedback. Ah well, some things never change.
For this year attendees had the option of buying movie tickets for a late night showing of the Rise of COBRA. This should be fun to watch with your new found friends. If the movie isn’t your style, then hang out at the nearby downtown mall or in the lounge with the rest of us seasoned drinkers (I joke…..). Typically the parties go late into the night because after all, you have 14 months of catching up with your friends and you only have 4 days to do it in.
Coming next is part 2 which will cover Friday through the rest of the weekend. If this is your second con or more, please feel free to add suggestions or corrections in the comment area, because everyone’s experience and view of it all is different.