(Review) Fan Fest 2017 Was Humble But Fun!
I can recall years ago when Phoenix Comicon announced their sister convention, Fan Fest! It was held at the Cardinal’s Stadium and ran from Friday to Sunday. Although the event was small, it had heart, small businesses, and a great place to hang out with friends. Even as a small convention, it still had so much to offer. Every year since, the event has grown bigger in both venue size and guest appearances, eventually switching to the Phoenix Convention Center as their venue.
This year was interesting for Fan Fest which was on Saturday and Sunday. Still, Fan Fest is one of the conventions I look forward to all year long, even more so than Phoenix Comicon, so I wanted to see how it was!
In the world of conventions there is a fine line between an appropriate amount of people, too many people, and a ghost town. Fan Fest has been a favorite of mine since it finds a nice balance, having a healthy amount of people as well as personal space. Many conventions goers might believe that the more people that attend a convention the better, but when you can hardly move, have to wait in lines for hours, and sometimes have to squat in a panel room for hours to ensure you have a spot for a guest, it can be troublesome.
This year for Fan Fest it seemed to have a good amount of convention goers, not great and not a ghost town. You could browse whatever you’d like, whenever you’d like and if you did have to wait in lines, they were only a few minutes long. I enjoyed getting to chat it up with friends and vendors for as long as I liked, which isn’t something you can do at most conventions.
The vendors that attended included some of our favorites: Sincerely Sam who did Tarot card readings for buyers, Amber Brite, Courtney Leigh Creations, Sew Ashtastic, Amberskies Cosplay, and so many others! Getting to see all of my favorite local businesses in one place was great and getting to make my purchases in person so I can praise them directly for all of their hard work is always nice. Some of the other vendors included comic book shops, gaming stores, writers and a ton more!
The cosplay at Fan Fest was great. A ton of local cosplayers came down to show off their favorite costumes. Pretend Princess rocked the con in her Batgirl cosplay, Lvcky Diamond came as Scarlett Witch, Game2Hype was Static Shock, Wayloncc was so dope as Bane. Even our own Deegan Marie came as Oogie Boogie and Saint was Anakin Skywalker! Everyone was in high spirits as they had fun chatting it up with homies and catching up over everything that happened in the year.
As for guests I loved that they had voices actors from Steven Universe: Zach Callison who is the voice of Steven, Grace Rolek who voices Connie, and Amanda Joy “AJ” Michalka who voices Stevonnie! Other notable guests were various members of Willie Wonka, Jed Rees from Galaxy Quest, Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters and Kevin McNally of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. It was a healthy guest list!
They introduced a new security measure by having RFID readers that required all con goers to wear a plastic wristband that they swiped upon entrance and exit. This was to help ensure all people coming and going were meant to be there. This along with wanding and traditional bag checks helped make it a safe event!
The Not So Good
Although there were many aspects of Fan Fest that were enjoyable, there were some parts of the event that could use improvement. I am not sure why it seemed so humble compared to previous years. The attendance of Phoenix Comicon has grown tremendously over the years, however, one could speculate that with the cancellation of their Halloween event, Thrill Halloween, and the reduction of space it might mean they are pulling back in order to better focus on Phoenix Comicon itself.
Last year for Phoenix Fan Fest the facility not only utilized the main exhibitor hall, as it did this year, but also granted access to the panel rooms. This year they had panels but they were placed in a sectioned off area in the exhibitor hall. The “panel rooms” were divided by pieces of fabric. While sitting in on one panel, you could overhear the surrounding panels. While this was a mild hindrance, it wasn’t absolutely horrid.
I have always enjoyed Fan Fest in the previous years because it had the feel of an indie convention with the backing of a major convention. However this year the event felt very underwhelming. A good convention does not need big name stars, it doesn’t need the best venue of all time, nor does it need an overwhelming amount of people attending.
A good convention caters to those who invest in it, whether they are the vendors who pay for the opportunity to sell their wares or the attendees who pay to experience what the convention has to offer. It is okay to have a two day event. It is okay to have a smaller event. It is okay to not have big guests. As long as an event focuses on making certain the convention goers have a great time, that is what matters most. We have such a fantastic community of geeks here in Arizona that it is such a shame to watch our greatest convention and its sister convention lose sight of what once made them great. Their events are now being disregarded for smaller events, not because the smaller events are more flashy but because they have heart.
I hope that Phoenix Comicon and Fan Fest do take a moment to examine other beloved conventions and understand why people revere them so much. I fear that if they continue down the path of attempting to overshadow other conventions in guest list alone rather than ensuring the common man is cared for, their reputation and attendance will suffer for it. I’m not quite sure at what point things started to turn for the worse but they have the ability and opportunity to change this course into a better direction.
As for Fan Fest itself I would recommend this convention to others who want to shop local, engage with local cosplayers, and check out a number of unique vendors without the expectation of being blown away. For more information on the event, check out their website: https://myfanfest.com/phoenix/
Photos by Darth Mexican and Deegan Marie Photography