Cincinnati Comic Expo 2016
Cincinnati Comic Expo is the larger of two comics conventions held in Cincinnati in the fall. This year it was held over the weekend of September 23-25, 2016 at the Duke Energy Center.
Load-in started at 1PM on Thursday, so in theory we could've driven over that morning. However, that would've been a very early start to the day, so we decided to leave on Wednesday evening and stay at a place on the Kentucky side of the river. We were even able to use loyalty points and get the night free, so we didn't have to spend money before we'd made money.
We got there at a pretty reasonable hour. I had several boxes of merchandise that I hadn't had time to price (we received merchandise from six different wholesalers while gone to another event, so I got way backed up on the pricing), so I brought it in and got it all priced before turning in for the night.
The next morning we had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we got our belongings out and headed downtown to get checked into the main hotel. Check-in went quickly, but the biggest hassle was having to dig our cart out from behind the merchandise so we could haul in our possessions. Like many high-end hotels, they don't make their bell carts available directly to guests, and we really didn't want to spend money on tipping the bellman when we hadn't made any money yet.
Once I got the cart out and the merchandise back in the van, I took our stuff up to our room. It turned out to actually be smaller and have fewer amenities than the less expensive hotel we'd stayed in the previous night. But I think we have a different set of priorities than the average guest at these sorts of hotels.
Then we headed over to the convention center to find the loading dock. We were running early, so I was surprised to find a line already formed. I had to circle around the building, so I ended up further back than I would've if I hadn't gotten caught by surprise.
With time to kill, I started working on con reviews. Then one of the con staffers came by to let us know they'd be starting promptly at 1PM, and would be getting us a dock pass.
However, when the appointed hour arrived, they only let in the first few vehicles. Apparently they were only letting people use a few spots, just in case deliveries came in. So we ended up sitting for almost an hour, watching the three or four vehicles in front of us inch forward in line.
Finally someone in authority wised up and realized we'd never get loaded in before it was too late if they didn't get more efficient. So they started putting vehicles in every available space. At first they wanted me to back into a weird little slot, but I warned them I wasn't very good at backing. So they put me on one of the ramps and I was able to get into position.
I went over and got checked in so we'd have our badges. Then we started hauling things in as fast as we could. Two volunteers showed up with flatbed carts, which sped the process. Still, it took a good two hours before we got everything in and I could take the van to park.
When I got to the parking lot, I discovered it was absolutely tiny and almost full. Worse, they had a special (expensive) rate for vans. So I drove around, but didn't find anything else, leaving me with little choice but to pay the freight.
I was annoyed enough to sound off about it when I got back to our booth. My husband decided to find out whether there were any cheaper possibilities, and someone pointed him to another lot further south. However, our priority right then was to get our structures built and merchandise in them, and the time I had purchased was good until well after the dealers' room would close for the night.
However, the loss of that first hour really hurt us. By the time we had to leave, we hadn't even gotten any of the t-shirts into their hutches, even if the structures were built. But there was nothing to do but gather our personal belongings and head back to the hotel.
After we had supper, I took the directions and headed down to the van. The parking lot had emptied out a fair amount, which made it much easier to extract the van from the spot. Then I drove down and had to figure out which of several lots was the public one.
Once I got parked, I found out one nasty wrinkle at that place: although it cost only four bucks per day, the day turned over at 4AM. So I would have to walk down there in the wee small hours of every single morning and feed the meter box to buy fresh parking. I was horribly annoyed, but at least the place looked reasonably safe. All the same, I decided to take our big golf umbrella as a makeshift weapon, just to be on the safe side.
However, I was so annoyed that I wasn't able to get much sleep on either side of the interruption. What sleep I did get was tormented by a nightmare of a certain Presidential candidates' supporters having implemented some of their wilder notions and making life hell for misfits.
It also meant that I was not very happy about getting up the next morning. I was exhausted and grumpy, and I could tell that if someone bothered me, I was apt to go berserk all over their ass. Not exactly a situation conducive to good business.
Then, while we were trying to get finished setting up, our friend who was helping us got a phone call. His wife's car had broken down, leaving her without transportation. So he had to go back home and help her out of that fix. He hoped he could get things straightened up quickly and get back in time to at least help us load out, but didn't want to make any promises.
At least we were set up and ready by the time the doors opened and the VIP's started flowing in. I even had time to walk up to a branch of our bank and buy some change. However, most of the VIP's seemed to be mostly just looking at this point.
Even when the general attendees were allowed in, they were doing more looking than spending. However, I had been warned that this was a crowd that tended to use Friday to plan their purchases rather than buying outright. So I tried not to feel too glum as the sales failed to accumulate.
Also, the exhibit hall was open until 8PM, but by 6PM traffic was slowing to almost nothing. By that point I was getting quite tired and ready to head back. Supper might be a cold fish sandwich, but it was good to get off my feet and be able to get on the Internet. The hotel's WiFi took a dislike to my Mac, so I got the hotspot out and used it.
We went to bed fairly early, and this time I was able to fall asleep relatively quickly. Even so, the disruption of having to get up and feed the meter box at 4AM meant I didn't get solid, sound sleep and was pretty tired when I had to get up Saturday morning.
We headed back over to the convention center and got our tables open for the day. I did take a little look around, but didn't have time to wander far.
Sales remained frustratingly slow, although better than Friday. However, given how poor sales had been on Friday, that was a pretty low bar.
In the afternoon there was a sudden announcement that David Prowse (the guy who provided Darth Vader's physical presence in the Star Wars movies) would not be doing his appearance due to a medical emergency. However, a little later there was another announcement that he would be doing his signing. Apparently he wasn't as bad off as initially feared, and would be able to do some of the less demanding parts of his appearance.
Then I got a text message from our helper. He'd resolved the problem enough that he could come back, but had gotten stuck in single-lane traffic on I-465 leaving Indianapolis. However, he was pretty sure he'd be able to get back in time to help us a little before the dealers' room closed for the night.
He did make it, and was able to help us get closed up that evening. Then we headed back over to the hotel for the evening.
On Sunday we needed to get our stuff out of our room so we could check out. However, given that the Bengals game meant that I'd had to pay event parking for the day, we did not want to have to move the van. So I had to pile all our possessions onto our cart and take it down to the lot. It was an interesting process, since one area has a strong slope and I obviously did not want to have the cart get away from me.
But I was able to get there safely, although I had to wait for a motorcade of buses with a police escort, apparently the opposing team. Once I got everything into the van, I headed back to the convention center. At the door I ran into a little hassle from a security guy who wanted to inspect my purse. I told him it was just a purse and full of pink-cooties girl stuff, and he let me go. He didn't even notice my computer bag.
We got the store opened and I had a little time to look around. I finally saw some of the other dealers, although I didn't get time to see the whole place.
When people started flowing in, I was hoping for a final uptick in sales. However, things remained slow, and we decided to start loosening up the tighter displays fairly early, putting away a lot of small, delicate stuff that hadn't gotten a lot of attention.
However, there was still a lot to pack when I needed to go retrieve the van. At least we'd acquired two extra helpers, which did help speed the process, but we still had a lot to get packed and hauled out.
As I left the convention center and walked to the parking lot, I discovered another wrinkle: the Bengals game had just let out and the streets were full of people leaving the city. I ended up having to inch my way back to the convention center through heavy traffic.
I had to wait to get into the loading dock, but at least not as long as we did on Thursday. I still used it to make some more progress on my con review.
Given the lengthy delay getting in, I was expecting to find everything packed and waiting to carry out. Instead, I discovered that our helpers were still trying to get t-shirts packed. Worse, the poor sales meant the stacks relaxed so much that they wren't fitting back into the boxes. I had to repack some of the boxes to get stuff in tighter, and we still ended up having to use some empty boxes from the ceramics for t-shirts.
However, I was still able to get everything loaded out in a reasonable amount of time. It helped that I was able to stack stuff on the floor beside the van and sort through it until I found the things I needed. Also, as it got later, some of the volunteers who were tasked with minding the convention center's flatbed carts all pitched in to haul the remaining merchandise down to our van.
As a result, we were able to leave right around sunset. We probably could've driven back home, but it would've been a very late arrival. Instead we headed to a hotel just across the Ohio river in Kentucky. We were both sore and tired, and were a bit disappointed when we were told there wasn't a hot tub at their pool. But when we got into our room, we were happily surprised to discover that it was in fact a jacuzzi suite.
It took us a little work to figure out how to get the temperature right and have the jets working. But once we did, sitting in that hot water and letting it ease our aches and pains was pure heaven. We finally decided we had to get out if we were going to get to bed.
On Monday morning we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast. Then we decided to take another soak in the jacuzzi before carrying our stuff out and checking out. Maybe that was a mistake, because by the time I hauled our belongings out to the van, it had started spitting rain. It stopped right about when I got everything in, but as we pulled out, it started up again.
The rain was quite heavy as we drove around I-275 to 74. However, once we crossed the Indiana state line, it slacked up and finally stopped altogether. All the same, I was still glad to pull in at home.
Copyright 2016 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 October 19, 2016.