Convention Review: Jafax 2019
This year I returned to Jafax! Jafax holds a special place in my heart as it was my first anime convention way back in 2007. I sold at Jafax from 2013 until 2016 (you can read my 2016 review here, before then I wasn’t doing official reviews).
The move to the DeVos was rough for Jafax and 2016 was basically my worst convention to date in terms of sales. In 2017 I chose not to apply and in 2018 I missed the sign ups so I was past due to come back again!
I’m very pleased to report that my experiences have changed quite a bit and I had a good weekend that reminded me much more of how Jafax used to be when it was held at GVSU. It was a good dose of nostalgia.
The rules seem very similar to the last time I sold at Jafax, but it’s been awhile. A few things things to note is that they do not allow grab bags, they have a 50/50 rules for fanart (meaning no more than 50% of your table can be fanart), and that “Artists’ work must be original art created by themselves.” Meaning no manufactured items.
I had no major issues during sign up and was pleased to see that the con has moved to accepting payments online for the table costs as in previous years they required a check to be mailed in. The last time I attended my check was not cashed for almost 2 months which was a headache to deal with when it came to balancing my checking account.
We received a nice load in email prior to the convention and I had no issues finding or contacting staff all weekend. Artist Alley staff even went by periodically and asked how we were doing and if we had any suggestions which was much appreciated.
Load in was a bit odd with just a small window of time Thursday to load in and a larger window of time Friday morning. We chose to bring our stuff in and leave it on the table Thursday and return Friday to set it up just to make sure we didn’t have issues with Friday because the first day of the Festival.
Load in was easy, the loading docks were readily accessible despite multiple road closures and there was no long lines so we had room to park and carry our stuff in.
At The Con
I won’t lie, I was incredibly nervous about the show sharing a weekend with Festival. Festival of the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids is a huge city wide event drawing tens of thousands of people each year to see free music and dance performances, shop from food vendors, and shop from local artists. That’s a lot to be competing with and, on top of all that, parking and navigating the city in general becomes a nightmare because of all the blocked off streets and increased traffic. I didn’t pay attention when I signed up or I might have chosen not to attend again.
Luckily my fears were unfounded. Jafax is a small con, but traffic seemed steady throughout the day and sales were consistent. I was relatively busy up until Sunday when I had a lot of down time. I set my sales goals around 1/4th of what I’d regularly expect to make at a con given that this is a smaller event and on a busy weekend, but I was happy to find at the end of the weekend I made 3x my initial goal.
Partially through the weekend I looked down and saw a little dog in an outfit in the area behind my table, stepping on the edge of my table cloth. I checked before attending and the DeVos this was a person with either a poorly trained service animal, or a pet dog they were trying to pass off as a service animal. It was completely inappropriate to allow their pet dog to wander away from them and go behind tables like that and I was pretty livid about it. I did ask a friend to pass along the information to Jafax staff as I had no helper and was busy at that point. I didn’t see the dogs again that weekend and I hope that means they were properly removed. (If you’d like to read more about ADA law you can do so here https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm There’s also more information here https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html, it specifically mentions there that a dog may not be allowed to wander away from the handler and must be under control at all times.)
I mentioned out of control service dogs in my last review for Anime Central and I hope this isn’t becoming a trend at conventions.|
Rather than fight at the loading docks, we chose to carry our stuff down to the parking garage via the elevators in the convention center lobby. We intentionally parked near the doors to make this an easy move.
I heard from other artists that the loading dock was turning away artists, forcing them to go back into the parking garage and pay event parking (a flat $15) for a second time.
I highly recommend just moving your stuff out through the elevators to avoid situations like this if you have a smaller load and don’t actually need the loading dock. This really goes for any con.
As an Attendee
I didn’t get to experience any of Jafax as an attendee sadly. I was without a helper and had house guests over for the weekend. Plus I needed to get home to my animals, especially my poor dog who did not appreciate the long hours. I didn’t even cosplay, there just wasn’t time when I have to have all my normal household chores on top of a convention. That’s the downside to a local con. I did, however, get to nap under my table after load in and set up, but before opening, on Friday. I will say the tables were very clean underneath, haha.
I will say, though, it felt much closer to how I remember Jafax back at GVSU and I hope they continue to move in a positive direction.
I was pleasantly surprised at the growth Jafax has made. They are in a new area from the last time I attended with a better layout, easier load in, and good flow of traffic. Sales were slow, but steady, throughout the weekend and I saw better numbers than expected given it shared a weekend with a large, free, city wide art event.
This isn’t a large con by any means. I would never recommend traveling for it, but if you are within easy driving distance and have somewhere inexpensive to stay, I’d say you should give it a shot.
Obviously the weekend chosen wasn’t ideal, but the fact that Jafax was able to hold its own speaks well to the future of the event.