Grand Rapids Comic Con 2017

Grand Rapids Comic Con is held ever year in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This year it was held over the weekend of October 20-22, 2017 at the DeVos Place and Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids.

Because it's a full day's drive from Indianapolis and load-in starts at 1PM on Thursday, we headed up on Wednesday. Because of the construction on I-69, we went up on US 31, but we still made pretty good time. There was some road construction near South Bend, but not nearly as much as there had been in June when we went to JAFAX, the Grand Rapids area's main anime convention. We were able to get to the hotel in good time, and were excited about being in a place nicer than we had been in at that time.

However, things did not go as smoothly as we remembered from last year. When I got into the room, I discovered that the freezer compartment in the mini-fridge was so badly iced up that there was literally no room to fit even a single ice pack. We went to the front desk to ask them to swap out the fridge, and they ended up switching us to a different room. At least that one had only a little front buildup, so I had room enough to freeze all our ice packs. However, the shower setup wasn't quite as nice for a person with mobility issues, which did not impress my husband.

Once we had everything into our room, we headed to the hot tub in hopes of soaking out the soreness of the drive. However, the water was hardly bathwater warm, so we ended up not staying very long.

After we had supper, I pulled out the story I was working on and tried to untangle a difficult scene. This story is a companion to "Phoenix Dreams" (appears in Lazarus Risen), and is done from Roger's point of view instead of Toni's. Since Roger Chaffee was born and raised in Grand Rapids, it seems appropriate to be working on a story about him while I'm up there.

On Thursday we had the hotel's complimentary breakfast, then sat in the lobby and waited for a while before heading downtown. We went ahead and parked in the DeVos Place underground garage so we could get a place close to the freight elevator and speed up the load-in process. I'd planned to get some more writing done while we were waiting, but we ended up parking in an area without adequate light. So we ended up standing around and talking with some other vendors who were also waiting to load in.

This year they actually let us start loading in a little early. They delivered a bunch of the convention center's carts and everyone grabbed one. This made it easier for me to dig out our own cart without having a massive pile of merchandise beside the van. We even had helpers unloading our carts at our booths, which sped up the load-in process even more. As a result, we were able to get a fair amount of setup done in time when we'd usually be busy hauling stuff from the van. I even got all our structures built and a fair amount of merchandise into them before the vendor hall closed for the night and we had to head back to our hotel.

We had a late supper and I even fit in a little activity on the Internet before we turned in for the night. I actually considered it a fairly productive evening.

On Friday morning we got up and had the hotel's complimentary breakfast before heading downtown. This time we caught it right in the middle of rush hour, so we had heavier traffic to deal with, and I wanted to get us parked in the cheaper Schribner's Street lot, under US 131. Even so, we were able to get completely set up in good time to take a look around before the doors opened.

When they did, customers just sort of trickled in. As the afternoon wore on, the flow did pick up, but there was never a time when we were truly overwhelmed by the number of customers we were dealign with. However, I noticed that a lot of people with three-day badges were looking around, planning their expenditures, rather than actually shopping. So I had a reasonable hope that some of these people would come back later and actually buy some of the stuff they were admiring so intensely.

After the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed back to the hotel. It was too late to even think about using the hot tub, but we had a good supper. Then I tried to reconcile two contradictory drafts of one section of the story. I was able to produce a single text, but I'm still not satisfied with it.

On Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel, then headed back downtown. At least traffic was lighter, but we had a firmer deadline to get there. Worse, the security people at DeVos Place had become really anal and insisted on looking inside my computer bag as well as my purse. After I got inside, my husband told me that they were wanting to look into our lunch bags as well, although at least they didn't want to have him completely disassemble the luggage cart and look into every single thing.

Even so, I did have a little time to look around, although I never managed to be there when the book dealer was at his booth. Once the doors opened, sales picked up to a point where we really weren't able to do much looking around. We even had some busy times when we could barely keep up with the flood of customers, although this meant we soon started running low on change. Worse, we had a fairy figurine and a consignment item walk on us, which was not pleasant. I'd always thought of Grand Rapids fandom as a pretty honest crowd, but a couple of other dealers mentioned having merchandise disappear on them as well. So it appears there are a few bad apples around this town.

In the evening we went back to the hotel, where we got a little time to soak in the hot tub. However, it was downright chilly, while the pool was nice and warm. So we ended up sitting on the wide concrete steps into one side of the pool and enjoyed the warmth until we decided to go back to our room. There I did some more writing, trying to close up some of the holes in my story.

On Sunday we headed back downtown. This time we parked in the DeVos Place garage, since we knew there would be a single daily Event Rate parking fee rather than hourly parking, and we wanted to get a good position for load-out. We went ahead and put down our deposit for next year's Grand Rapids Comic Con. I considered asking them to hold the check until after Youmacon, but decided that if sales held steady, we shouldn't be in too bad of a bind.

However, once the doors opened and sales proved rather lackluster, I began to have second thoughts. Of course by then it was already too late, so I decided I'd just have to hope for the best. We were getting sales, but almost all of them were small ones. Instead of large tea sets and multiple t-shirts, they were buying small figurines, which didn't fill our cashbox the way I'd been expecting to.

In the middle of the afternoon we decided we were going to have to start packing if we were going to have any hope at all of being out of there in a timely fashion. However I knew it was cutting into our sales once I started packing. I decided that I was going to leave a lot of the cheaper figurines at home next year, since they just weren't selling all that well.

We got a couple of nice young men helping us with the t-shirt packing and the breaking down and loading out. Even with all their help, we were hard-pressed to get loaded up and out of there before DeVos Place security wanted everyone out. Worse, my good blue sweatshirt went missing, and we almost didn't find it. Fortunately my husband was able to connect with some of the security people and claim it, because they won't ship lost items to their owners and only keep things for a few weeks before discarding them. Much as I like that sweatshirt, it wouldn't be worth a drive back up to Grand Rapids just to retrieve it.

Once we had everything packed and loaded, we headed back to the hotel. It was simply too late for a soak in the hot tub, so we just had supper and I did a little writing before we turned in for the night.

On Monday we had breakfast before carrying all our personal belongings out to the van for the trip back home. Because we hadn't been able to reduce the volume of merchandise all that much in spite of having sold a decent amount, I had to do some wiggling and jiggling to get everything to fit back inside our van. At least I was able to get it all in, and didn't have to abandon anything on the way.

Because I'd gotten so little sleep the night before, the drive home became a long, hard slog. We stopped in Kalamazoo to make the deposit at a branch of our bank. It was bigger than the JAFAX deposit, but still not as big as I would've liked to see. As we continued down the road, there were some times that I had to fight to stay awake. I was very glad to get back home safely and carry in our personal belongings.

Copyright 2017 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 November 27, 2017.