Anime ZAP!

Anime ZAP! Is an anime convention held every year in the Peoria area. It is put on by the same people who put on Anime Midwest and Metacon. This year it was held on the weekend of January 6-8, 2017 at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria, Illinois.

After having very disappointing experiences at three holiday bazaars and canceling a fourth due to bad weather and lack of seed money, we were very eager for a good event as we got ready to head out for Peoria. However, we had a rather alarming incident that almost derailed the trip before we even got out of the driveway. I thought the doors had frozen shut overnight, and was struggling to get them thawed. As it turned out, I must've clicked the remote when I was still too far away, because the only problem was that they hadn't unlocked.

Once I got the doors opened and our personal belongings in, we were ready to hit the road west. This was our first trip of any distance in the van after we'd had major work done on the engine over Thanksgiving weekend. The engine sounded different, but I couldn't hear any obvious problems and the gauges all seemed to be nominal. However, I remained concerned about how it would handle the extreme cold.

Since my parents' place is just a little off the way to Peoria, we'd planned to stay the night going and coming and visit with them. We got to their place in good time, and I was able to get the laundry done, even after having to bring in everything temperature sensitive. I also got a little writing done, as well as some business-related work.

On Thursday we had breakfast with my folks, then packed everything back into he van and headed over to Peoria. I noticed that the van creaked on turns, as if complaining about the cold. I wondered if some of the water from my mistaken efforts to thaw the doors had frozen inside the body and was now making noise.

We stopped in Bloomington to get some gas, then got on I-74 and followed a route I'd driven many times when I was living in Normal and working in Peoria. It was interesting to see how things had changed. It looked like the apartment complex in Morton where I'd lived in the summer of 1996 has been torn down, although I couldn't take a good look while I was driving.

We got checked into the hotel without trouble, but someone snagged both bell carts while we were doing so. I ended up having to bring in most of our belongings piecemeal, which was really annoying. Worse, someone brought one of the bell carts back just as I was bringing the last few things in, almost as if to taunt us.

Once all our personal possessions were in and arranged, we headed over to the main hotel, since there was always the possibility that we would be allowed to load in early. Because of the extreme cold, we had to dig out our cart and bring in all the ramune we were delivering for a wholesale purchase, as well as some other temperature-sensitive items that we didn't want sitting in the van for an indefinite amount of time. Because there was snow on the ground, we couldn't put stuff on the ground while we were digging the cart out, so I got to play an unwelcome game of the Wolf, the Sheep and the Cabbage with my merchandise, moving it from one place to another in the van.

We ended up sitting by the dealers' room door for a while with our loaded cart beside us. I did some stuff on the Internet, then dug out a notebook and did some work on a story.

Finally they opened the doors and let us get in. Hauling all that merchandise in was not fun, because the cold made everything an unpleasant process and the snow made the wheels on the cart hang up. By the time we finally got everything in, it was already getting late. But we couldn't afford to waste time, so I set to putting structures together. I had cut several of our poorer performing t-shirt designs in order to make room for the figurines we'd acquired when we thought they would sell at the holiday bazaars, so I didn't know how many hutches they would require. Once I had everything else out, I was able to build some additional figurine structures, which let me display that merchandise better.

Finally they shooed us out for the night so they could close the doors. We drove back to our hotel through the cold and darkness. There we had a late supper and I did some work on the novel.

We'd intended to get a good night's sleep to be prepared for the next day's hard work. However, because of the extreme cold, the room's little heating unit simply couldn't keep up, and the thin hotel blankets weren't enough to keep us warm. I had a very miserable night with only bits and snatches of sleep.

By the time the alarm went off, I was pretty fed up, and had resolved to bring in our own blankets from the van. During the winter we always carry a couple of blankets with us just in case of emergencies on the road, but we hadn't seen any point in bringing them in, until I discovered just how chilly an inadequately heated room could be.

We dragged ourselves out of bed and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we headed over to the main hotel to finish setting up. At least this time the drive was unaccompanied by the disturbing creaking sound, so I concluded that it had indeed been ice and the morning sunlight on it had melted the ice, even in the bitter cold.

We were able to get everything up right as people started coming in to shop. We actually had pretty good sales for a small convention, although my expectations had been fairly low. We had a few lulls in the traffic, but for the most part we were doing business the whole time we were open.

In the evening we headed back through the bitter cold to our hotel. We had supper and I dug back in on my novel. I ended up taking a few paths I'd not planned on, but at least I was making headway again.

On Saturday we got up much more rested after having spread our two thick wool blankets over the bed. Compared to them, the thin little thing the hotel provided was nothing, although I suppose that on a more reasonable night the heater would've been able to keep the room comfortably warm.

We had the hotel's complimentary breakfast, then headed back to the main hotel to get our tables open again. This time I finally got a chance to walk around the dealers' room and visit with the other dealers. One of them was extremely unhappy that her neighbor across the aisle had just dumped all his merchandise in piles in his space, making no effort whatsoever to present it in a professional manner. Worse, he had no set price for anything and just quoted whatever he thought he could get out of any given customer who asked.

Once the doors opened, traffic was pretty much steady, although we did have a few lulls here and there when there was sufficient time to get online on my phone. We had a lot of small sales, particularly of the erasers and bells, but we also had some good-sized figurine and porcelain sales. By the time the dealers' room closed for the night, I was very much ready to get back to our room and have supper. Since this con is so small, it doesn't have the con suite providing free rice and ramen that most of this family of conventions has. So I hadn't been able to get that little extra bit of food, or the comforting warmth in cold weather.

After supper, I pulled out my novel and tried to get some more work done on it. Then we turned in for the night and tried to stay warm so we could get solid sleep.

Sunday morning we got up and had the hotel breakfast. Then we had to pack up all our personal belongings and carry them out of the van so we could check out. In order to hold down our expenses, we'd decided to drive back to my folks' place after we loaded out, and spend Sunday night there. Because of the extreme cold we'd been having, I was seriously wondering whether we needed to bring the pop and bottled water into the dealers' room with us to protect it against freezing. However, Sunday wasn't so extremely cold and we were getting some sun, so we felt confident that it could sit out in the van all day long and still stay above freezing.

After we got everything uncovered and arranged, I took the opportunity to talk to some of the other dealers about their experience of the con. Then the doors opened and I had to hurry back to our tables to do business. We had pretty steady sales, even if they weren't spectacular. By mid-afternoon I started packing the figurines, which are very time-consuming because of the need to protect fragile wings and other parts from breakage.

My oldest brother, who lives in the area, had the evening free and was able to get over to the hotel shortly before the dealers' room closed. He helped us get stuff packed and our structures broken down, and he's always had a really good eye for getting boxes loaded the most efficient way possible, with a minimum of wasted space. Even with his help, it was quite late by the time we finished and headed back.

By the time I got to my folks' it was almost midnight. I had to make sure to bring in everything temperature-sensitive, which took a lot of work. I had to reassure my mom a couple of times that we'd just gotten back in and no, we didn't need her to go outside to help or supervise. But I did get some writing done before I turned in for the night.

On Monday I got a very upset phone call from home -- the furnace wasn't running properly. I told our house and cat sitter how to find the business card for our furnace repairman, then did my best to not get too upset while I had breakfast and did some bookwork. I also got another event lined up.

After lunch, we put our last few belongings back in the van and hit the road back home to Indianapolis. We actually got back in decent time, although I had to then take the van up to the storage unit to reload for the local flea market at which I was hoping to sell off some stuff that just wasn't doing that well at cons any more.

Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel

Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.

For permission to quote or reprint in other venues, contact Leigh Kimmel

Last updated December 10, 2017.