Convention Review: Anime Central 2019

Convention Review: Anime Central 2019

Convention Review: Anime Central 2019

This is my third year returning to Anime Central! Acen has a lottery style acceptance and I’ve been amazingly lucky to have been able to attend for so many years in a row. 

You can read the 2017 review here: https://beezeeart.com/blogs/beezeeartblog/convention-review-anime-central-2017
And the 2018 review here: 
https://beezeeart.com/blogs/beezeeartblog/convention-review-anime-central-2018


As with other cons I’ve reviewed previously, I won’t go into much detail if nothing has changed, so be sure to read previous reviews for the most thorough information.



Rules

The rules were largely the same with one major difference this year. Artists are now required to purchase insurance. In the past this was not the case. My 2018 email about it read, “Artists in the Alley, this is strongly advised as it protects you and your products in case of damage, or in case of someone getting hurt from your products.” This year, it was a requirement, but in my opinion the change was not well communicated. We were specifically instructed to ignore the insurance requirement in the past and were not explicitly told otherwise until just a month before the con itself. It was an unpleasant surprise which could have been avoided with clear communication from the start.

I would not recommend purchasing the insurance offered by Acen. Compared to other options, it is overpriced. After looking around, I decided to go with ACT insurance which was more affordable. (www.actinsurance.com/). Another thing to be aware of is that Anime Central technically required all insurance to be active the 17th thru the 20th even though the convention ended on the 19th. I saw posts saying you only need it for dates in which you will have product on site, but each artist should do their own research prior to attending and make sure their policy meets all requirements of ACen. Moving forward this should be something future artists should plan to budget into their expenses so they aren’t caught unaware.

Sign Up

As with previous years, the lottery sign up goes relatively easily. You simply fill out the form to be entered and choose the category you primarily sell in.

If you aren’t familiar with the exhibitor portal it can be overwhelming to figure out how to pay, choose a table, and register your badges, but having done it a few times it wasn’t bad.

Communication

The communication about the changes to the insurance policies left a lot to be desired this year and I heard there were issues with communication between other artists and staff. Though I had no issues, personally, it seemed that communication was definitely something Anime Central struggled with this year. 

Load In

Load in continues to be a huge struggle for us because of the timing. The loading docks close so early that if you want to load in Thursday you will need to take the day off work if you work a 9-5, something my helper is not willing or able to do. We also have a long drive which makes it even harder to arrive on time. There was only an hour or two alloted to load in on Friday, not enough time at all for us to get everything in and set up.

We ended up unloading in the circular drive in front of the building. There are signs saying you can’t do this and last year we were yelled at a bit for lingering there, but this year no one said anything. We’re just rebels I guess. I took 2 trips to bring everything to the table, then my helper moved the car while I set up.

Once again, I think this is an area that needs improvement. It would be nice to have set up last until much later in the day to accommodate those who are traveling and will arrive later in the day or those who are working Thursday. Especially since this is a larger con so most people will have more products that need to be moved in. We make it work every year, but it’s always a big question mark. I recommend if you can't set up Thursday to make a few different plans as to how you will load in. Our back up plan was to park the car in the parking ramp across the street and hand carry everything in, but it wasn't ideal so I'm glad our rebellious load in worked.


At The Con

There was another new layout this year and I think it worked the best so far of all 3 years I’ve attended. The artist alley was expanded from the room it was in last year into both rooms from last year and the year before. There was significantly more space in the aisles and more space between artists, though there was still no spacing between the tables themselves so it was still a bit difficult to get out from behind your table if you were in the middle of a row and people around you had backdrops. Luckily I was able to grab a spot on the end and up against a wall, a place I prefer to be at. If you're picky with your spot, be quick to pay for your table and select a location. 



Traffic moved better with the improved space, though it still got crowded at some points. Having 2 rooms seemed to confuse attendees a bit as they kept exclaiming they didn’t know there was a second area, but I think most figured it out by the end of the weekend and all areas seemed pretty equally busy when I walked through them.

The game room area also moved to the downstairs and was placed next to the artist alley with a door opened between the two spaces during operating hours of the alley. However, there was a large gap between where the games were and the artist alley with a lot of open space. I saw very few people coming through or going out the open door and I think it confused attendees more than it helped the flow of traffic because, looking into it and not knowing any better, it seemed like there was just a door into a largely empty room for no reason.



Sales were about the same for me as last year. Honestly, they probably could have been better if I had more stock as I underestimated how much to bring. I had one of the best Fridays I’ve had at any con, usually Fridays and Sundays are a con are very slow with Saturday being the main day for selling. That left me with not enough stock for the rest of the weekend because I wasn’t anticipating such a busy Friday. If I return in the future, I’ll plan to bring even more stock to keep up with increasing attendance!



Load Out

Since our hotel was right across the street and I didn’t have much stock left, we avoided the hassle by loading up my wagons and carrying everything across the street to the car. I feel like hand carrying your stuff out is always going to be the best bet for an easy escape with a con this large.



As an Attendee

All in all, though, I really enjoy Anime Central. The size and variety of the vending hall and artist alley is impressive, I could spend an entire day just browsing everything there is to see. While I didn’t attend any panels, there are plenty to keep you busy on a vast variety of topics. Photoshoots really showcase some amazing cosplays, I did sit and watch those for a little bit of time when I was taking a break. It’s always a con I recommend every anime lover attend at least once in their life. I also always enjoy seeing actual industry guests and large companies there, you don’t get those unique experiences at smaller cons. 


I wasn't a huge fan of the change in the game room area. I felt it was a bit small and the layout was awkward, crowded in some spaces, and too empty in others as well as overall just being sort of dark. 

We actually spent most of our free time outside of the con. I went to Medieval times for the first time (be sure to stop by their table there for a coupon if you go. I didn’t know they had them, huge mistake!). We also stopped by Ikea on the way home.There’s a good deal to do in the area which is an interesting bonus if you find the con is just too big and crowded.



We also chose to stay at one of the hotels directly across the street this year. While it was significantly more expensive than staying further out, not relying on hotel shuttles or taking our chances with full parking lots significantly improved my overall enjoyment of the con.

On a personal note I spotted quite a few service dogs who I personally thought weren’t suitable for public access work or needed a refresher in their training. Several were pulling and behaving inappropriately and I saw one dog in a diaper which made me think it wasn’t actually potty trained properly. The worst I saw was in the dealer’s hall when I was walking around. I almost tripped when a dog with a retractable leash and ran across the aisle in front of me, basically creating a massive tripping hazard with its leash right around shin height. Had I been elderly, blind, a young child, or even just not paying attention in that moment, it could have caused a serious fall injury. I continued to see that dog around the convention pulling their owner around and was surprised that convention staff didn’t speak to them. (I like to think it’s a training issue vs. someone purposely trying to pass their untrained pet off as a service dog, but I know that happens as well unfortunately)



After witnessing a dog jump up at a fellow artists table and try to grab their plushies a few years ago, I’ve done a lot of research into service dog laws. I've also since gotten my own dog and have gotten heavily involved in dog training in general so I feel like now that I'm more informed about the issues surrounding service dogs, it bothers me a lot more to see untrained dogs walking around. 

While nothing happened to be because of the dog that ran out in front of me, it was very much a best case scenario. An our of control dog may seem like just a nuisance if it's pulling around, jumping, barking, etc, but it can have very serious consequences when you mix in children, the elderly, expensive wares, or other service dogs who need to remained focus on their handler.  Not to mention these behaviors could escalate to lashing out aggressively to other people and dogs around it because the dog isn’t properly trained to handle the stress of such a large crowd. And that's not even to touch on the fact that poorly trained dogs being brought into non-dog friendly spaces makes it harder for legitimate service dog teams to receive support and access. 

I know that this is a bit of a soapbox moment, but it's something I feel strongly about. I hope that in the future Anime Central can work with their staff to recognize and respond to dogs who aren’t suitably under control and are causing issues for other attendees. Especially since ACen has traditionally been one of our best cons when it comes to accessibility issues because of their special access badge. 


Under ADA law, it would have been acceptable to remove service dogs if “the dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it”. (You can read a brief explanation of ADA laws about service animals here if you are interested




Final Thoughts

Despite a bit of a hiccup in communication with insurance requirements leading up to the event, Anime Central 2019 was very successful for me. Profits were similar to last year, but there was honestly room to make more had I brought more stock. The new layout vastly increased the space to move around in the artist alley and I believe it had a positive effect on the flow of traffic and on sales in general. The lottery style makes this a difficult artist alley to be accepted in to, but if you are accepted it will be well worth your time. Just be sure to plan ahead to make it as smooth a weekend as possible. 

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