Indiana Comic Con 2014
Indiana Comic Con is a brand-new convention that came to the Indianapolis Convention Center over the weekend of March 14-16, 2014. Comic cons are a little different from regular science fiction conventions or even anime cons. Instead of having programming all day long, they tend to have their programming concentrated on the daytime hours, and often have everything in a single very large hall, or a small number of interconnected halls. This creates a very different feel that may be confusing to someone more accustomed to the spread-out feel of a large anime convention such as Youmacon or Anime Midwest.
Because it was so large, dealer setup started on Thursday afternoon before the actual convention began. This was a good thing because the logistics of load-in were atrocious. We had to park at the loading docks near Citizens' Energy Group's big steam generation plant and haul every cartload of merchandise through a long corridor to the dealers' room. That meant it took longer to move everything that it took to get it out of our vehicle or set into our booth. However, there was something rather cool and steampunkish about having that big building looming over us, billowing smoke and steam from its various stacks.
Afterward, we discovered that the Indiana Convention Center is set up to allow dealers to drive their vehicles right up to their booths and unload directly, rather like the COBO Center in Detroit which Youmacon uses for their dealers' room. However, to do that the convention would have to pay the Convention Center to turn on a system of high-powered exhaust fans that protect the area from a buildup of carbon monoxide and other noxious gasses. Apparently the con didn't wish to spend that money, perhaps because it's a new and untried con, or maybe because they didn't want to have to increase the prices they charged dealers accordingly.
Because of the logistical issues of load-in, we got a late start on the actual process of setting up our merchandise, and had just barely put together our display structures when it was announced that set-up was over for the day. We'd been hoping to get everything done early and be able to rest a little on Friday morning as we had at Youmacon. Instead, we were going to have to pry ourselves out of bed as early as we could manage in order to get done setting up before the con opened.
That meant I started the convention sleep-deprived, and never really caught back up the whole time. There were several points on the weekend that it really told on me, and I think if we could've gotten set up on Thursday and got some rest on Friday, I would've been better off the rest of the weekend.
Once we finally had our merchandise set up on Friday and got our empty boxes squared away behind our tables, I had to run and get our lunch. By the time I got back, we were already open and taking in sales. We were busy the whole afternoon, to the point I decided we should take some of our money over to the local branch of our bank and get it deposited. It also gave me an opportunity to acquire some change, what I thought would be plenty for the rest of the weekend.
After things closed for the evening, we headed over to Circle Center Mall to get supper. Then we went home and I got a book shipped. I also tried to get some writing done.
On Saturday we decided to save the parking charge and park out on East Street, where we usually park during GenCon. That took us right by a church where they were having a free breakfast, and not just your usual breakfast foods. They were passing out bowls of hot chili thick with meat, which was delicious.
As it turned out, that filling meal was probably the only thing that sustained us. Although Friday had been busy at the level of a good-sized anime convention, Saturday was absolutely crazy-busy. I had to go the first four hours without a single bathroom break because there was no gap between customers. I finally got to the point where I knew that if I didn't get a bathroom break, I was going to end up like Alan Shepard on the Mercury launch pad, and I wasn't wearing an air-cooled spacesuit. So I blew up and demanded a bathroom break, and finally got it.
Worse, we kept running out of change. It seemed like everybody was paying cash, and they'd gone to an ATM which spat out a wad of twenties. Several times I got to a point where I literally didn't have enough smaller bills or coins to make proper change for a transaction, which left me in the jam of having to round up to what we did have. And with the local branch of our bank closed on Saturday, there was no way to get change until someone with a wad of ones took pity on us and let us change some of our twenties for ones.
In the mid-afternoon we finally got enough of a lull that I could go get us something to eat. This reduction in the torrent of customers may have been at least in part the result of the con closing off the box office and not selling any more tickets. I heard that they had so exceeded their wildest expectations of attendance that the place got so crowded the fire marshall was going to shut them down if they didn't cap the attendance for the day.
A little after that, I was helping another customer when I heard a bang behind me and a couple of our displays started shaking. My husband yelled at me, and I thought that some idiot in the booth behind us had pushed through and hit our displays. Instead it was some guy who'd tried to dive in our backspace and grab our cashbox, and who tripped over the clothing rack on his way out. I didn't see the guy, but my husband said he looked scruffy in a way that suggested he was a homeless person who'd panhandled enough money to buy a one-day ticket, then cruised the dealers' room in search of something to steal.
So I got to run the whole setup while my husband went to talk to con security about the situation. Since he wanted me to keep people from getting into our backspace, I couldn't go very far to help people, which made for some awkward moments. But after he came back, we did have a fair amount of additional business.
After the doors closed for the evening, we headed over to the local Steak 'n Shake to get supper. Then we headed back home, where we counted our money and were astonished at just how much we'd accumulated. I ended up bagging up most of the larger bills in a pouch from our SCA garb and stuffing them in the bottom of my purse for safekeeping. I didn't like having them in our backspace, but I liked the idea of them sitting at home even less.
On Sunday we had to park fairly near the convention center so I wouldn't have a huge hike to retrieve the van. When we got into the dealers' room, we spent pretty much the whole time restocking our tables, and thus had only a little time to look around the dealers' room and see who else was there. We noticed that one blade dealer had quite completely vanished, and we wondered whether he'd sold out and left early, or if he'd been removed for some policy violation, given that he was one we'd had difficulties with at Anime Crossroads.
Then the customers started pouring in. The crowd wasn't quite at the level of Saturday, but I was still so busy I never really had time to catch my breath. We didn't even get a chance to start packing before the place closed. As a result, we were late starting to load out, and the horrible logistics meant it took longer than usual to get everything out.
We'd been planning to go to a Chinese buffet for supper, but by the time we got out, we knew they'd be closed or getting ready to close. So we headed back to our side of town, thinking that we'd get some quick sandwiches at Subway. Instead we got there to discover they'd already closed for the night. We saw the Arby's across the street was still open, so we headed over there, only to discover that their dining room was closed and only the drive-thru was open. We were so exhausted and famishingly hungry that our single-minded focus on Get Food Now didn't leave any room for realizing that our big van might not get through the tight turn on the drive thru, until we caught it on a concrete retaining wall.
So now we've got an ugly dent and scraping in the side of the van, and the manager acts really snotty to us when we express our dismay at the situation. Not the first crumb of human kindness or sympathy, just a contemptuous, "And that's my fault HOW?" Which pretty much destroys my interest in ever doing business at that particular Arby's again.
We're hoping that we'll soon be able to afford to get the dent pulled out and the scrapes repainted, because if we don't get it dealt with before winter brings salted roads, it's pretty much an invitation for the van to start rusting out. Still, it was a sour ending for what was otherwise a very good con, and pretty much convinced us that next year we *have* to have helpers in order to keep up with customers and to get in and out within a reasonable amount of time while dealing with the awful logistics.
Copyright 2014 by Leigh Kimmel
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Last updated April 19, 2014.