Convention Review: Anime Milwaukee 2019
This was my second year at Anime Milwaukee (Or AMKE). I was so excited to return! This convention still stands out as one of the most well run cons I attend. This continues to by my experience. I apologize if this review seems short and lacks many photos, but I honestly was just enjoying the con so there's not a ton to say!
You can find my previous review here. Since this is a con I've done before, I will only go in depth if something has changed from my last review so it can be helpful to read that one before this one.
As far as I know there's been no significant rule changes. I still like that AMKE allows artists enough space to bring an extra little table, clothing rack, etc, so long as it fits in their space. It allows for more flexibility with displays. I personally brought a little 4 foot table because I was on an end.
Sign up remained super easy. Anime Milwaukee is juried so I filled out the google docs form when it opened. Google automatically sends a confirmation that they received the submission. There was a slight delay in acceptance letters going out, but this was communicated clearly via email when it happened. We received a link to pay for our tables via Eventbrite and add a helper badge.
Communication with staff continues to be amazing. I had an issue at the convention that needed some attention and because of the load in email I had the personal number for the artist alley head which meant I could quickly call and get ahold of them.
The pre-load in email is also one of my favorites because it includes all the information I need (opening times, set up times, layout map and seating chart, parking info, food info, staff contact info, etc). A lot of conventions don't take the time to lay all that information out in one easy to access source and while I didn't need it as much this year as I'm more familiar with the area now, it was still very welcome.
And staff left us a goodie bag on the table that included valentine candy and a little squishy which I totally squished like crazy all weekend. It was a good little stress relief toy.
Load in is easy using the loading dock, I've yet to run into any issues. We came in late Thursday because Helper Mom needs to work a regularly 9-5 so we chose to set up Friday morning. There was still plenty of time to set up. The loading docks were nearly empty Friday morning and there was plenty of room to park and time to leave our car while we set up and brought any extra carts and such back to the car.
The only major issue I had with the layout change this year was the row of guest tables to the right of my booth. They were not used all weekend and a row of empty tables doesn't look very nice. They mostly ended up turning into hang out spots with people sitting on the tables or on the floor. I tend to not like this sort of situation in the artist alley or dealer's hall as people sitting around or milling about in a giant group blocks the flow of traffic (and people tend to leave a mess of trash behind if they are sitting and eating) and tends to result in trash being left behind and no one likes trash all over.
At the Con
I had a minor rough start to the weekend when I went to go set up my table and one side of it just collapsed. When I flipped it over I found it was broken quite badly and it had been wrapped in duct tape in an attempt to fix it (obviously this didn't work). It was frustrating and angry that the company knowingly provided a broken product, I'm not sure what I would have done if anything had broken like my cactus pots or display crates. Or if someone had gotten hurt! (Let me be clear, this table was provided by the convention center, Anime Milwaukee isn't responsible for those.) I've never had this issue before, I'll be sure from now on to check under my table before I start setting up to make sure it's not cobbled together with hopes, prayers, and duct tape. Artist alley staff wasn't at the booth in the artist alley yet, but I was able to call them with the number provided in our information email and they worked quickly to solve the problem, taking away the broken table and letting me grab a nearby unclaimed table so I could continue setting up while they found a replacement. I was impressed by staff's quick response and I was able to finish set up in time.
This year there was a minor shift in the artist alley moving us towards one side of the room instead of in front of the vendors. I'm not sure it made much of a difference.
Had the tables actually been used, though, I don't think the room allotted for them would have been enough to allow for autograph lines without blocking out huge chunks of the artist alley. All in all it was a confusing choice, I don't understand why it was made or why it wasn't used. I'd like to see this area handled better in the future.
Announcements were clear and consistent on closing and opening times. So many times con announcements can't be heard or understood over the noise of the hall and AMKE always gets it right.
Last year there was issues with registration lines blocking the entrance, but this year there was no issues with that at all. There was sometimes lines in the hallway, but they didn't block the flow of traffic too much.
I still love the hours! They allow lots of time for sleep and a good meal. We had enough free time to go to Ikea, aka Adult Disney, on Saturday night and buy things, mostly a ton of lint rollers since those are my favorite kinds, but there is no Ikea near me.
Traffic wise, Friday was very slow. I made 1/2 what I would usually expect to make on a Friday for a con this size. Saturday picked up and I hit sales numbers well above my sales goals for that day so that was nice. However, bad weather combined with a naturally slower day on Sunday to result in very low sales again. Last year's AMKE was one of my best conventions as far as sales go while this year was definitely on the lower end of what I would have expected to make at a con this size, but it was still profitable enough to be worth the drive and hotel stay. And I'll always take a well run con with less profit over a frustrating nightmare con that's highly profitable.
Again this year I noticed the crowd was on the younger side and lower priced items sold first. I thought I brought enough, but I guess I need to bring even more small items in the future! Some pillow designs sold out before my regular plushies which almost never happens.
I ran into a few issues with unattended children which isn't unique to Anime Milwaukee, but was perhaps a bigger issue than usual because it's a more family friendly convention than one of the more notorious "party cons." Including a boy who grabbed one of my pillows and ran after his parent to show her (who hadn't noticed he wasn't with her anymore and hadn't paid attention to him calling her). I absolutely stood up and yelled in my most mom voice, "You can't run off with that, get back here RIGHT NOW!"
No matter the con my advice is to always keep an eye out for this. It's happened before and even, I suspect, resulted in some actual theft in the past. Children don't really understand that you shouldn't pick something up and carry it around with you if you don't intend to buy it. It may be worth planning to rearrange your display a bit if you are going to do Anime Milwaukee in the future so any items which a kid might be inclined to run off with are front and center where you can keep an eye on them.
Load out went well again. We stayed at the Double Tree this year and valet parked the car so we packed up and I waited while Helper Mom walked over and got the car. We unloaded out the loading docks. It did get a bit busy, though we were one of the first cars there. I'd recommend either getting there before all the large vendors finish packing up.
As a side note we had a horribly rough drive home, if you plan on doing Anime Milwaukee, it's worth planning well in advance for winter weather as February in Milwaukee can potentially be VERY snowy. We're used to it since we're just on the other side of the lake (perhaps more used to it since we get massive amount of lake effect snow blowing out way). Be sure your vehicle can handle the snow if you are driving in and budgeting for the possibility of an extra day on the end of the trip in case you get snowed in. If you are flying plan on coming a day or two early to avoid weather related delays.
As an Attendee
True to my review last year we did not stay at the con hotel. It was just too loud and too crowded. Aside from line issues at the elevator I also struggled to sleep there because of the echoing noise in the large atrium.
We stayed at the Double Tree and it was an easy 2 minute walk to the convention center. Which was a very cold walk with all the snow and wearing a skirt, but it was worth it. Plus we got warm chocolate chip cookies and popcorn when we checked in, always a nice touch.
Sadly I didn't personally have as much fun at the con as the previous year.
We didn't attend any panels again, mostly because we decided to go to Ikea on Saturday evening instead and Friday we were too tired. But also it seemed like there was a lot of fandom panels and Helper Mom, while a general nerdy who raised a huge nerd, isn't interested in those.
I didn't enjoy the food options, the lines were very long especially during the busiest time and there wasn't many choices. I waited almost an hour for pizza and a smoothie for our lunch on Saturday. I didn't have problems with this last year, in the future I'll have to plan packed lunches better.
I was also personally incredibly annoyed with the staff member playing a recorder at the badge check spot for the artist alley and dealer's hall. I saw a lot of attendees that enjoyed it, but hearing it for hours on end got incredibly annoying very fast. I also ran into issues with the Wisconsin Center staff who were limiting the amount of people on escalators. I know this is to stop them from breaking down, but this wasn't well communicated or well executed. I watched them several times just jam their arms out in front of people and essentially slam their arm into the person like a clothesline to stop them from getting on the escalator. It seemed incredibly rude and uncalled for.
I do still like the con in general, though, it's a nice mix of being a larger convention with a smaller feel. Other attendees were super fantastic to interact with, which I did a lot while waiting in the massively long food lines. Sometimes the most fun you can have at a con is just wandering the hallways.
I also really enjoyed my random trip to Ikea, it's so close to the convention if you don't have one near you, you might want to take a few hours and buy home goods you definitely don't need, but want, haha.
I had another fantastic year at Anime Milwaukee. It continues to be one of the most well run artist alleys I've seen and artist alley staff is friendly and helpful. I was especially impressed with their fast response to my table collapsing issue during setup.
Sales were much slower than I expected compared to last year, but it was still a profitable event. Part of this I suspect was the winter weather, especially on Sunday. Another part of this may have been
From an attendee point of view I was left rather annoyed by several factors, but overall I had a good time.
Unfortunately I won't be returning to Anime Milwaukee next year because I have a family vacation planned over that weekend for next year. However, I would highly recommend any artist to give Anime Milwaukee a try, especially if you are local, but it's also worth a long drive. A stress free show is worth it, even if profits may fluctuate.