Kanpai! Con

Kanpai! Con is a brand-new anime convention held in Omaha, Nebraska. It's put on by the same parent organization that puts on Anime Midwest and Anime ZAP! This year it was held over the weekend of February 10-12, 2017 at the Hotel RL and CoCo Key Water Park in Omaha.

Because of the distance involved, we knew it was going to be a two-day trip, and the route offered the opportunity to stay overnight with my folks each way. Since they're both elderly and not in the greatest of health, it was most definitely not an opportunity we wanted to pass up.

We left on Tuesday after a noon activity and got to my folks' place in time to get my laundry done. We had supper and I visited with my folks for a while. I also did some work on a short story I wanted to get finished.

On Wednesday we said good-bye to my folks and headed on to Omaha. When we left their place, we were getting some light snow. It stayed pretty light all the way around Bloomington-Normal, but as we headed west toward Peoria, it grew steadily worse. Once we passed Peoria and were heading toward the Quad Cities, it got so bad that the road started getting iffy. Feeling uneasy in my seat, I slowed down, although it meant that my husband did quite a bit of grumbling about lost time. I pointed out that we could lose a whole lot more time if I lost control on slick roads and ended up in the ditch or worse.

Just west of Davenport, Iowa, traffic on I-70 slowed to a crawl. We spent almost half an hour creeping the few miles to the next exit and the famed Iowa 70 Truck Stop. When we were almost there, we saw the reason for the backup: a very nasty wreck in which a semi had gone right through the wire barrier and smashed a little car. It pretty much vindicated my decision to go more slowly through the rough parts.

At least the snow pretty much ended after that, although there was still snow on the ground. But the roads were clear and we made pretty good time past Des Moines and into Omaha. By that point we were pretty low on gas, so we stopped at a gas station before actually going to the hotel and checking in.

Because we wanted to hold down the cost on an unknown convention, my husband had decided to redeem some points to get our first night's stay. He'd been able to get.a whirlpool suite for the same number of points as a regular room, and we'd figured it would be a good way to soak out all our aches and pains from the long drive. However, the suite we got was even better than we'd expected from previous times we'd stayed in suites. It had two full bathrooms, so we wouldn't have to take turns, and the living area and bedroom were fully separated by a wall with French doors, rather than just a partition and archway. It had a fireplace in the front room, as well as regular heating units in both rooms. And the whirlpool bath was absolutely huge.

As soon as I got our personal possessions into the room and settled in, we drew up some hot water

and got ourself a nice, long soak. It's astonishing just how good those jets can feel on sore muscles.

Then we had supper and I sorted out some scratch paper so I could get some more writing done. I did make notes for one key scene in the story.

On Thursday we got up and headed downstairs to have the hotel's complimentary breakfast. It was really sumptuous, with meat, eggs, hash browns, and all kinds of delicious fruits and breads. Then we went back to the room to take one more soak in the hot tub before it was time to gather up our things and check out. Lovely as that suite was, there was simply no way we could stay there the entire weekend. We simply didn't have enough points to do it, and actually paying with money was simply out of the question.

Once we were loaded out and checked out, we headed over to the cheaper hotel where we'd actually be staying during the con. I'd known it was going to be a much plainer one, but it turned out to be pretty much a dump. It was worse than the place in Charlotte or the place in Spokane that we had considered rotten and swore to never stay in again. Their handicap accessibility was a sorry excuse, especially since they couldn't be bothered to fix the card reader on the back door. It meant that I had to constantly run around to the front entrance to let my husband in. They also had no bell carts, so I had to carry each item in individually. It was a real aggravation, but at this point there was no way we could really find another hotel to replace it, so we pretty much had to just grit our teeth and put up with it. The unpleasantness made me almost wish we hadn't stayed at the nice place the previous night, because this place wouldn't have seemed like such an awful come-down, just unpleasant.

Once we had our belongings in the room and had lunch, we headed over to the main hotel. There was a little back way where we could go between them, once we found the entrances to the convention center. We ended up sitting around for several hours while we waited to be able to load in. At least I was able to get some more work done on my story, so the time didn't go completely to waste.

Once we got our booth assignments, I started carrying stuff in. However, the initial confusion and consequent delays in starting carrying in meant that we were way behind on our setup when they announced the dealers' room was closed for the night and shooed us out. But there was nothing to do except head back to the crap hotel and get supper. I did get a little more writing done before turning in for bed, but I was not exactly overjoyed at being stuck in such a crummy place.

On Friday we got up and got the hotel's complimentary breakfast, which wasn't much to speak of. Because of issues with the local health department, they weren't able to serve any prepared foods like scrambled eggs. Instead, we had to satisfy ourselves entirely with sweet rolls, donuts and bagels. It was a pretty disappointing spread to start a long day with.

Then we headed back to the main hotel and finished setting up. While we were unboxing figurines, we made the unhappy discovery that our big Tang horse had his nose broken clean off. Since we didn't have any glue with us, there was nothing to do but wrap the nose up in bubble wrap and box the horse back up to take home and fix. We were so far behind that we were still scrambling to get finished when the doors opened. However, we didn't exactly get a huge flood of customers, so it wasn't like we lost a huge number of sales.

Sales were slow but steady over the afternoon. We got a lot of weekend-badge people scooping out what we had to offer. I also head that they had sold a number of Saturday-only badges, so I had at least some hope of good sales then.

At this convention they were able to have the con suite that this family of anime conventions usually has, complete with ramen, rice, and pop. It was in one of the rooms facing the hotel lobby, which was under renovation at the time. As a result, we got the privilege of all the sounds and smells of an area under construction, which weren't always an ideal accompaniment for eating. But hot ramen was welcome after so much hard work, and helped me have enough energy to get through the day.

After the dealers' room closed for the night, we headed back to our room at the crap hotel and had supper. I did some more work on my short story, sorting through my notes and trying to pull them together into some kind of coherent storyline. I also tried to reduce duplication where I could, so that they would take less room in their folder and in my backpack.

On Saturday we got up to have what passed for a breakfast at that place. Then we headed over to the main hotel and got our tables opened for the day. I also finally got a chance to look around the dealers' room. I was astonished to discover that one dealer had been set up in the open lobby area outside the dealers' room, alongside the club and charity tables. They had a zillion little jewelry items, but they were setting up every morning and tearing down every evening. I couldn't imagine having to do that.

At least sales did start picking up as the Saturday-only people started coming in. By the end of the day I actually felt like we would have some kind of hope for the weekend, and at least would make enough money that we could consider coming back the following year. I was also astonished at how many people had just discovered the con that weekend. I talked to one after another person who had literally just discovered the con in time to buy their membership and come in the door.

The lack of publicity was bad news for our sales this year. However, the sheer number of last-minute members strongly suggested that there was a substantial untapped market in this area, and there would be hope that next year's convention would be even bigger and better. The biggest question would be how the promoters would use the next twelve months, whether they would just let things slide or if they'd really work to get the word out about their convention.

When the dealer's room closed for the night, we went back to the crap hotel to have supper. I did some more sorting through my notes for the story, trying to identify gaps in the storyline and how they could be remedied.

On Sunday we had yet another crummy breakfast before heading back over to the main hotel for the final day of the con. The first hour or two, the dealers room was simply dead. It was so quiet I decided it was a perfect time to run over to the con suite and pick up second breakfast in the form of ramen and rice, which would do a better job of filling us up than rolls and bagels.

However, after that initial dead period sales finally picked up and we actually sold several figurines. But then it was time to pack and load out. Because we tried to get as many sales as possible while doing the slow pack, we ended up behind where we wanted to be and were still packing when most of the smaller vendors had already taken off. The hotel staff was redoing the whole ballroom for some kind of banquet or dinner meeting, and they just sort of worked around us and were really cool about it.

I did run into a problem as I was taking the last load of merchandise out. Apparently the doors in that area lock automatically at 9PM, because I suddenly found myself locked out. Since we weren't staying at the con hotel, I didn't have a key card, so I had to make a frantic hunt for a service door that hadn't locked. I finally found a way back in and hauled out that last load. My husband followed me and made sure that I could get back in to retrieve our personal stuff.

Still, I was glad to be done and leave, much as I disliked the crappy hotel where we were staying. I made supper, then made a few more story notes before we turned in for the night.

On Monday we got up and had one last breakfast before gathering our belongings and carrying them out to the van. This was complicated when our room key suddenly stopped working on the door, with several of our belongings still inside. We went to the front desk and raised cain about it, since we were supposed to have another hour before checkout. The desk clerk gave us a lame apology and reactivated our cards, and we made sure the door was propped from then on, even if it did involve a slight risk that someone could swoop in and steal something.

I was very glad to put that dump behind us and hit the road east to my folks' place. However, the con had been sufficiently draining that it soon became an uphill battle just to stay awake. We ended up having to buy additional Monster energy drinks at a truck stop to make sure we wouldn't nod off along the way.

We stopped in Bloomington for gas, and I called my dad to let him know we were almost to their place. We got in just in time for supper, and then I dragged in our stuff and did some essential laundry. I was so tired that I couldn't really think much about writing, so I just scribbled a few notes about some of the stuff I'd mulled over while driving.

On Tuesday we visited with my folks for a while before carrying out our stuff and hitting the road for home. At first I didn't feel all that bad, but it ended up taking me three cans of caffeinated pop to get us safely back home. I did stop at the branch of our bank in Brownsburg and made the deposit. It wasn't as much as I'd been hoping, but at least it was something to help tide us over. Especially with March shaping up to be a dead month, we were going to need every penny we could rake in.

Copyright 2012 by Leigh Kimmel

Permission is granted for reproduction in fanzines and other non-profit fannish publications.

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Last updated December 10, 2017.