JAFAX 2017

JAFAX is western Michigan's big anime convention, generally held around Father's Day each year. JAFAX stands for Japanese Animation, Film, and Art EXpo This year it was held over the weekend of June 16-18, 2017 at the DeVos Place and Amway Grand Hotel in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Because they start load-in Thursday afternoon and it's a full day's drive up there, we drove up there on Wednesday. In previous years we'd go to Grand Rapids by way of I-69 and I-94. However, this year there was so much road construction on I-69 that we decided to go up US 31 to I-94 instead. That took me through South Bend, past a lot of familiar places from the days when I was working at Mishawaka-Penn Public Library.

As we got into Michigan, I noticed that the van was wanting to run hot again. I'd thought we'd resolved that problem after we got home from OMG!con earlier in the week, by adding coolant to the reservoir. I was wondering if maybe we had a coolant leak somewhere, and resolved to check the coolant level the next morning. In the meantime, I kept a very close eye on the temperature gauge and rationed the air conditioning as needed.

We got to the hotel in good time, but was it ever a disappointment. They couldn't even get us into a handicap-accessible room, although they thought they might have someone move out of one of them the next day. The whole place seemed run-down, and the staff's attitude about problems was underwhelming. We really regretted not having gone to the Quality Inn where we'd stayed last year for Grand Rapids Comic Con, which was a really nice place and even had a hot tub. But at this point we were committed, so we hauled in our belongings and tried to settle in as best we could.

Since we'd had no time to work on my husband's laptop, he spent most of the time on mine. I did a little stuff on the Internet using the iOS devices, but otherwise I spent most of the evening writing. After all, it was at least something I could get done.

On Thursday, we got up and checked out their complimentary breakfast, which was about the level we expected for a place like this -- not great. However, shortly after we returned to our room, they came to let us know we could finally move into the handicap-accessible room. That took a little work, but once we could settle in, I knew it would be much better for my husband, who was still having problems with his knee after an injury almost a month earlier.

In the afternoon I did some more writing, until it was time to head up to the DeVos Place and get loaded in. Because JAFAX is a smaller show than Grand Rapids Comic Con, they actually allow us to use the loading dock, and we drive into an adjacent hall to park and unload. We were able to get our equipment and merchandise into our booth and a beginning made on building our structures, but we had a long way to go before we'd be ready to sell.

On Friday we grabbed the hotel's complimentary breakfast, then hurried back downtown to finish setting up. This time I had to drop my husband off at the front entrance of DeVos Place and park the van in an regular parking lot. I'd intended to go up to the lot on Monroe Street, since I really don't like dealing with the pillars in the one on Scribner Street, under US 131. However, when I got up there, I found that it was closed off. So I had to carefully get backed out and turned around (no small feat in a full-sized van), then go back to the Scribner Street lot and park there. All that took time away from my setup time.

It ended up taking all morning and a good chunk of the afternoon to get everything set up. Once the doors opened, we had some spurts of busy and even super-busy sales, but for the most part we did a lot of standing around. Of course this convention is smaller than Grand Rapids Comic Con, so I need to scale back my expectations accordingly.

In the evening we stopped at a gas station to get some much-needed gas. Then we returned to our hotel room to have supper and some rest and relaxation time. I pulled out a short story and got some work done on it.

On Saturday we snagged another iffy breakfast, then headed downtown to get our booths open for business. The Scribner Street lot was free parking for the day, which was a good thing when we were already running somewhat behind on money. I hurried over to DeVos Place to help getting our setup open for the day, and even had a little time to look around the place before the doors opened for selling.

Sales continued to come in spurts, and I had a fair amount of time in between them to catch up on the Internet. However, it meant that I was still wondering what our situation would be when it came time to get checked out of our hotel room. I was hoping that we'd have at least that much cash, and not have to leave that money riding on our credit cards.

In the evening we returned to our hotel to take it easy. I did some more writing, pushing a story forward into a tense and awkward confrontation.

On Sunday we got breakfast, then headed downtown for our final day of sales. Although we continued to have fairly slow sales, I was surprised at just how many empty boxes we had when it came time to pack. Apparently we'd sold a fair number of bulky things, and a lot of the boxes nested inside one another. So we actually had a lot fewer boxes to load back out.

By the time we got finished loading and returned to our hotel, it was quite late. We quick ate breakfast and I grabbed a few minutes to write on my story before we turned in for the night.

On Monday we got up and had breakfast. Then it was time to carry our belongings out and get them back in the van. Rain was in the area, but at least I was able to get everything into the van without getting it wet.

As we headed down US 131, we stopped in Kalamazoo and deposited the rest of our cash in a branch of our bank. It was pretty paltry compared to the sums we've often deposited after big comic cons, but at least it was something and would help keep us afloat until our next round of conventions.

When we went around South Bend, we got hit by a really nasty thunderstorm. We were at the point where we had to get gas, and we stopped on a road I recognized from my library days and found a gas station with a nice big canopy so I wouldn't get drenched while I was pumping it. Then we got back on the road south, having to deal with pouring rain in the middle of a mess of road construction. As a result, I was thoroughly exhausted by the time we pulled in at home, and glad that another family member could drive us to our evening activity.

Copyright 2017 by Leigh Kimmel

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Last updated August 11, 2017.