Clovercon was held over the weekend of March 19-21, 2004 at the Comfort Inn at Woodfield, one of the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. Clovercon is the continuation of last year's Stormiecon, but held in March instead of April.
Our trip over was interesting, in the sense of the proverbial Chinese curse. Our plan had been to leave Indianapolis early Thursday evening and arrive in St. Louis so that we could be ready to load in first thing Friday morning. However, as we were approaching Terre Haute, we suddenly noticed blue smoke coming out from under our van. We were right at Exit 11, so we got off and limped to the Pilot truck stop to call AAA and get a tow to someplace where we could have the van worked on. While we were waiting, we looked under the van and noticed fluid dripping off the engine. I swabbed some of it up, and it was reddish -- the color of transmission fluid.
The tow truck guy was local and knew a shop that wouldn't be too expensive. However, they were closing for the day just as we arrived, so we weren't able to get the van looked at. However, this shop was right beside a Knight's Inn, so we checked in for a rather uneasy night wondering what we would find out.
The next day, we went over to see what they'd found out. At first they were concerned that it might be indicative of severe transmission damage and we might have to get a whole new transmission. But after they ran some diagnostics, they discovered that it was a design flaw, combined with our van being very heavily loaded and the transmission fluid having been overfilled when a shop back in Indy did a transmission fluid change, causing it to overflow out the dipstick tube and dribble onto the engine and exhaust pipes, causing the smoke.
When they determined that the van was still drivable, we got back in and continued on our way. However, we had to take it much slower to make sure we didn't have a repeat of the incident. Each time we stopped at a rest stop, we looked under the van for signs of further dripping.
We arrived at the hotel a little after noon, local time. As it turned out, the dealers' room didn't open until 3PM, so we hadn't really lost that much load-in time. We immediately set to getting everything into the dealers' room, which at this place was on the first floor, so that we didn't have to mess around with freight elevators like we did at the awful nasty hotel last year.
After we got everything in, we got checked in to the cheaper place where we were actually staying, down the road. We got the merchandise set up about the time that people actually started filtering in to look around.
I also went over to the art show to see if I could get art on, but it was a total mess. Nobody knew where anything was, and they didn't even have any bid sheets printed up. After much effort I was able to get my art set out and get a control sheet worked up.
Then I tried to figure out what the programming situation was, since the program book did not include any panel schedules. Again, nobody could tell me anything, so I had no idea whatsoever where or when I was supposed to be having panels. By this time, my confidence in the con had plummeted.
We also discovered that Clovercon wasn't even having a real con suite. Instead the hotel restaurant was going to be the "hospitality suite," offering con members free soft drinks. However, any food was at our own expense, and we were told we were to have no outside food in the con function space. Given our tight financial situation, we could hardly afford to be buying muchies at grossly inflated prices. We were very glad that one of our merchandise boxes also included some emergency munchies supplies to keep us fed.
Sales were nonexistent, and by the time the dealers' room closed for supper, we were convinced that we were wasting our time. We went back to our room in the other hotel and had the supper we'd brought with us in a cooler.
Then we drove back to the Comfort Inn for the additional two hours of dealers' room time they were having after supper. We got there early, and ended up sitting around talking about how ridiculous this split-shift arrangement was. We had come to the conclusion that if we didn't have some notably better sales on Saturday, we'd just go ahead and start packing as soon as the dealers' room opened on Sunday. Especially given that we would have to keep our speed down on the way back, we could use all the time we could get.
We did get a couple of sales in during that second open period, but it didn't really make up for the nonexistent sales during the first part. When the dealers' room closed the second time, we went over to the artists' reception and took a look around. Since the art show was tiny and there didn't seem to be any refreshments, we didn't stick around for long. We just headed back to our sleeping room and hit the hay.
On Saturday, we headed back to the Comfort Inn and discovered the door to the dealers' room standing open, but nobody in attendence. We were not pleased to find no security whatsoever, and immediately looked around to make sure nothing had been disturbed. When some people from the convention finally showed up, we pointed out the severe liability exposure that resulted, particularly since there were two sword dealers. The con staffers pointed out that the hotel had done this without their consent, and that they were very upset with the hotel for doing it.
Once we got our tables open, we settled in to sell for the day. Not long after, my husband had a cap break off a tooth while we were munching on some snack crackers. He had to leave to find some kind of emergency dentist, which left me to sit table. As a result, I wasn't able to attend any of my programming events, which I'd been really looking forward to.
However, there wasn't really much for me to sit table for. I was having trouble staying awake because things were so slow. I spent a lot of the time talking with other dealers and commiserating about the miserable sales. When my husband got back, we both agreed that this had been a thoroughly miserable weekend and we were not going to go back next year. We also decided to pack up and load out as soon as the dealers' room opened on Sunday.
When the dealers' room closed, we just headed straight back to our room and had supper. Since there weren't any notable parties, we decided to just take the evening easy and go to bed early.
Sunday we got up early and got our personal belongings out of our sleeping room. Then we went over to the Comfort Inn one last time. As soon as the dealers' room opened, we packed our merchandise and loaded out. Sales were simply too poor to stick around. I did have one happy surprise when I collected my art from the art show -- one of my pieces had sold. But we still lost money, so we just hit the road for home
Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated October 21, 2012.