AnimeZAP 2018

AnimeZAP is a small anime convention held in Peoria in the first weekend of January. It belongs to the same group that puts on Anime Midwest and AniMinneapolis. This year it was held over the weekend of January 5-7, 2018 at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria.

We had planned to go over to my dad's place on Wednesday and stay the night before heading over to Peoria on Thursday. However, as the forecast for Wednesday grew progressively worse, we decided to move things up a day and drive over on Tuesday. It meant leaving in bitter cold, but at least the weather was clear. It also meant I was able to get the computer my brother the computer engineer had secured for me, since I had been without a computer of my own since Christmas.

On Wednesday we saw my brother off at the airport, where he caught a plane back to Silicon Valley. Then I ran some errands that I had planned to do in Indianapolis on Tuesday. I also took care of some small chores in the evening and did a little more writing.

On Thursday we hauled our personal belongings back into the van and hit the road for the Peoria area. We were staying in a hotel in Peoria, which caused me a little concern. If we were to have bad weather, it could become difficult and even dangerous to get across the Illinois River. The big bridge on I-74 is notorious for icing up and becoming treacherous in bad weather.

Once we had our personal belongings into the room, we headed back across the river to the Embassy Suites, where we found a reasonably good parking place near the dealers' room. However, things weren't ready for us to start loading in yet. Although the room was laid out, the hotel administration was being a bit anal about having all their i's dotted and t's crossed, and wouldn't let us in beforehand.

Finally we were able to start hauling stuff in. At least this year we didn't have snow on the ground, so I didn't have to go through quite so many contortions to get the cart out and the first load of merchandise on it. Even so, there were times when I felt as if I were playing the old game of the Wolf, the Sheep and the Cabbage, trying to make sure that nothing was left where it could be damaged by weather. Getting in was further complicated by the stiff hinges on the double doors, which had a habit of closing on a cart if there wasn't a second person to hold them open.

I got the small gridwall units in as quickly as possible, which enabled my husband to start building our structures while I was carting the rest of our merchandise in. As we were getting down to the final loads, another of my brothers showed up. He'd been able to take the afternoon off work and come over from the Bloomington area to help. Having him lifting those heavy boxes was a real help, as was having him opening the doors so I didn't have to wrestle the cart through each time.

Once we had everything brought in, he could tell that he wasn't really going to be able to be much help in building structures and putting merchandise in them. So he headed back home and we continued working on the structures until the dealers' room closed for the night. We had to go out the back way, but at least we were able to get out after the doors were locked

We headed back to our hotel and had supper before turning in for the night. At least at this hotel the room heaters were able to keep up with the bitter cold, unlike the heaters at the hotel where we'd stayed the previous year.

On Friday we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. It was pretty much all carbs, but at least it was something to start the day on.

Then we drove back over to the main hotel to finish setting up. I built the rest of our structures and put all the t-shirts out. Then I started unpacking figurines and getting them into place. I concentrated on the East Asian stuff, but did have the Western figurines as fallback options. I tried to get the best of our Western dragons out, but I didn't bother with the fairies or angels, since this is a smaller convention and I didn't want to be forever packing out.

Even so, we were still unpacking and setting up when the doors opened. A lot of times, people will hesitate to shop if you're still visibly in the process of setting up. However, we got a few sales, including a good-sized one, while we were still putting stuff into the hutches.

We had pretty good sales all afternoon. However, almost all of them were cash sales, which surprised me. Usually we get a fair mix of cash and credit, which means that we don't have a huge amount of cash to carry to the bank. I'm thinking that the younger crowd at this convention aren't as likely to have credit cards, or even debit cards, but even the older members seemed to be preferring cash. This could be a sign of concern about the economy, or the security of credit transactions.

After the dealers' room closed for the evening, we headed back to our hotel to have supper. I counted the money and was happily surprised to see that we already had enough to pay for our hotel and our booths. I also did some writing.

On Saturday we got up and had breakfast. Then we headed over to the main hotel and got our tables uncovered. We also put out the signs that we hadn't had time to put out on Friday. I even had a brief time to look around, but the dealers' room is small enough that it's not a huge problem.

Business was slow at first, probably because a lot of people were still rolling out of bed after attending the rave the previous night. But after a while things picked up, and we even had a few times when e had multiple transactions and had to make sure we didn't get them confused.

In the evening we headed back to our hotel to have supper. I was very happy to count the money. Of course it helps that this con has relatively low expenses, so our break-even point is a whole lot lower.

Then I went on the Internet and discovered that astronaut John Young had passed away. I wrote a blog post in tribute of him, then did some more writing on my novel before we turned in for the night.

On Sunday we got up and had breakfast. Then we had to carry out our personal belongings and get checked out. Much to my annoyance, the bell cart had vanished, so I had to get our personal cart out of the van and use it to haul out our stuff. I ended up having to make two trips, even though we'd reduced our stock of consumables. Worse, when I went to pick up the unopened 12-pack of pop, it suddenly ripped open and spilled pop cans everywhere. I had to grab them up and get them into the big cooler so they didn't get run over. As it was, some of them were dented enough that I had a good idea they'd soon be leaking.

Once we got checked out, we drove back over to the main hotel. With threatening weather coming in, I decided to just go ahead and haul out a whole cartload of merchandise that I'd never even unpacked. It would be one load I wouldn't have to haul out when time was at a premium. However, I still missed several other boxes that had never been unpacked and probably could have gone out then.

When the doors opened, I noticed that business was markedly slower. Some of it might have been people struggling to get awake and out of their hotel rooms in a timely fashion. But I also had a feeling that a lot of people were just bailing on the last day and trying to get home before the storm. I know that one of the dealers packed up and left that morning, at least partly because he'd had such lousy sales on Friday and Saturday that he was viewing Sunday as sunk cost.

Because of the slow sales volume, I decided to start packing the Western dragons right after lunch. They really weren't getting that much interest, and I wanted to be able to haul them out ASAP. Once they were packed, I started packing up the Asian figurines and other items.

The two of my brothers who live in the area came over to help us load out. We also had two con members helping us get everything packed. As a result, we were able to get done reasonably early, although it was just beginning to snow. However, we decided, based upon my brothers' report of road conditions on the drive over, to drive back to my dad's place.

We had one cute moment as we left the parking lot. There was a bunny sitting right by one of the islands, just watching us. It must've been a wild cottontail, but it seemed quite comfortable siting there and watching us drive away, as if it knew that humans weren't going to try to capture or harm it.

At first the roads didn't seem all that bad. But once we got onto I-74 and out of Peoria, I began to have some serious second thoughts about our decision. Apparently the road conditions had gotten considerably worse since my brothers drove over -- and they were in a vehicle with traction control, something our van didn't enjoy. It was a long, white-knuckle drive at about 35-40 MPH, and in one place just east of Morton we saw two vehicles spun out in the ditch on the westbound side.

However, by that point it didn't really make sense to try to find someplace to stay the night. There simply weren't any hotels or motels in the various little towns along the way, and by the time we reached Bloomington, we were close enough that it made more sense to just press on the rest of the way.

I was very glad when we finally pulled into my dad's driveway and I could shut the van down. Right about then I got text messages from both my brothers, letting me know they'd arrived home safely, and I let them know we were safe. I carried in our personal belongings and we had a very late supper. Then I scribbled a few lines on my novel before turning in for the night.

On Monday we visited a little with my dad, and I did some laundry. Then I carried our stuff back out to the van and we hit the road back to Indianapolis. We had time to stop at the bank and make our deposit before we got home.

Copyright 2018 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated January 11, 2018.