Labor Day Weekend 2015...one of the most overbooked weekends of the year. I’ve never heard of so many conventions stuffed into one weekend. There was Dragon*Con and Saboten on the East Coast. In SoCal there was PMX. And even in the Northern California area, there was Wizard World and SacAnime Summer. Pretty much all the adults went to the East Coast and Wizard World while the rest of the kids migrated to SacAnime for the promise of seeing some of their favorite Voice Actors and Power Rangers, old and new. That was the advantage SacAnime had: guests and relative cost...at least that what many thought.
I’ve spoken about SacAnime’s current location at the Sacramento Convention Center in the past. It has its advantages: nearby food, nearby hotels, AC (compared to the previous location at the Radison), etc. Still the convention is quickly become more and more stuffed every year as Elevator lines grew longer by the day, not to mention moving the autograph lines into the Exhibit Hall for this year. They moved the main stage / rave area to the Memorial Auditorium for this year. At first, it sounds good as I could use more security when I did shoots there. However this year, due to the crowds and the heat, that location was off limits for shoots. And the troubles didn’t end there.
Organization at SacAnime never seemed to implement lessons learned from previous conventions. From what I heard, some of the staff and management were reassigned, causing many things to be changed at the last minute such as the Guest Interviews and the Video Game room setups this year. For many Press attendees, interviews were cancelled with conflicting reports about miscommunication abound. Some of the smaller events like the AMV contests were even shortchanged in terms of how much time was allocated to their events before having to eject everyone from the convention center during Friday and Saturday nights. Many times while asking for locations to specific events, I would get conflicting directions depending on staff members on the convention floor. Artist Alley was not spared with several empty tables in evidence and several arguments about being about to share empty tables on Friday. Overall, a lack of communications infrastructure was a major source of pain this convention.
For the regular attendees, class-ism was in full swing. This was probably the first time where the different between VIP and regular badges was strikingly different with VIPs having exclusive autograph sessions with top-tier guests, all neatly roped off yet in plain view of the rest of the attendees. Regular attendees still had plenty of other guests, but instead of smoothly moving the lines, SacAnime implemented a new “Fast Pass” system which allowed customers to skip the lines entirely. So, if one had deep pockets, they could skip over their fellow commoners...classic Capitalism. While the VIP system is similar to how Wizard World and similar conventions handles guests, the fact that it was either “free to wait” or “pay to win” was rather discouraging. But having to go to the back of the line for every table of guests, the prices start to really add up, and so did the lines.
In terms of my personal enjoyment of the con, it’s still not the worst I’ve seen. A lot of it does have to do with the changes that seem to be going on behind the scenes and not all of it is for the better. For those who go to conventions for the guests...well they are there but I hope you are willing to burn holes in your bank accounts to get to them. Hopefully reports like these by other, more qualified writers as well as attendee feedback help to fix some of these problems before SacAnime Winter 2016. As it stands, the convention’s execution was sloppy. A shame since the guest lists continue to be top notch for a convention in the middle of the heartland.
Hopefully management takes these lessons to heart...
The 6 P’s: Perfect Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. (Please excuse my language)
Con-Rating: (Uncoordinated Event Management and New Autograph Policies)
Fun Factor: (...well when everyone else is in line, not much to photograph)