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Convention Review: Youmacon 2016

Though this is only my second year, Youmacon has quickly earned a spot as one of my favorite conventions. Held in the Cobo Center in Downtown Detroit, Youmacon definitely captures the vibrant, alive feel of a big city and it only gets better when the sun goes down. There is a ton to do and see both in the convention and in the surrounding city. I was so excited to return this year and it did not disappoint.

You can find last year’s review here.

Rules

Youmacon rules continue to be very standard in my experience.There are also a few companies which they ban fan art from so do yourself a favor and check the banned items list on the Youmacon Artist Alley group: https://www.facebook.com/notes/youmacon-artists-alley/youmacon-2016-dns-list/1476875079196987

Speaking of the artist alley group, the Youmacon group is one of the more active artist alley groups I’ve joined and is a great resourced. I’d recommend joining if you are thinking of attending. Most of the communication from the artist alley staff happens there.

Sign Up


Sign up took place via Eventbrite. I still consider Eventbrite to be one of the easiest ways to sign up and pay for an artist alley table. The fact that it saves my information and it has a mobile app makes it easy to sign up right on time for first come, first serve artist alleys. Even if I’m grocery shopping.

That being said, sign up was a bit of a mess. Returning artists got a sign up link early. I don’t know if this was the case last year as I was new. As a returning artist who also makes my living partially from conventions, I really appreciated the love from Youmacon staff for returning artists. However, it isn’t a perfect system and there were some issues. It’s already been said that things are going to change a bit for next year to ease the process further so there’s not much more to say on the issue. But I do hope they keep the early bird codes.

The lack of ability to purchase a helper badge when purchasing a table is still a minor annoyance, but knowing ahead of time that discounted helper badges aren’t available and that a regular attendee badge can be used for a helper meant I could purchase one ahead of time at the best discounted rate. So it really didn’t effect me this year.

Communication

As I said previously, the Youmacon Artist Alley Group is very active and the majority of the communication does come from there. There is no information packet emailed to artists ahead of time as most other cons do, so in order to get information such as where to park and how to load in you really do need to join the Facebook group and read the information files available.

One major issue for me was that I had no idea about the hours for the artist alley until Saturday. Artists were linked documents on the Facebook group from last year which stated the times were Friday 1pm to 7:30pm, Saturday 9am to 7:30pm, and Sunday 9am to 4pm with the first hour each day being Platinum only. This was also printed in the schedule. However, the alley didn’t actually open until 10am on Saturday and Sunday, which left me sitting there for an hour on Saturday. The “live” version of the schedule had the correct times. The printed schedule also had a typo that the hours Sunday were 10am to 4am, though it was obvious that was wrong.

All in all this was a ton of confusion and conflicting information. It wasn’t a huge issue, aside from my hour of lost sleep, but had it opened an hour earlier instead of an hour later than we were told it could have been a much bigger problem. I think more should be done next year to confirm hours ahead of time and make sure all information matches.

I must say, though, I did appreciate starting at 10am and hope they will continue. The people mover does not run until 9am so a 9am opening means either being late or walking in the street without any security around with a box of money. Not a good choice either way.

 

 

Load In

Load in for Youmacon is still my easiest. For all future artists wanting to attend Youmacon here’s the best way I’ve found. Park on the roof of the Cobo all the way at the far end to the entrance in the area marked “D”. There is an elevator inside the doors which you take down to floor 2 and the artist alley entrance is just 30 seconds away. It’s so easy and unless you have a massive amount of stuff it lets you skip the loading dock which is a mess of a line.

I always leave my car on the roof all weekend and have never had a problem. They do charge an overnight fee, but it’s honestly not bad considering how much parking costs in the area. This year I think it was $30.

At the Con

Check in was, once again, an easy process. I told them my name, showed my ID, showed the eventbrite ticket for my helper on my phone, and we were done.

The tables touching make it hard not to encroach on your neighbor's space, but it’s not bad either. I felt like this year the space between artists and the width of the aisles was smaller. It might just be there was more people, but I had a very hard time browsing the artist alley and if more than one or two people were stopped to look at a table it was hard to get through them.

This was a very busy convention for me this year! It was very slow during Platinum only hours, but picked up quickly and from noon and stayed busy. I hardly got time to rest unless my helper was there to watch the table for me. Youmacon draws many people from across the country and is one of the largest conventions I do. For many of my fans, it is the only time of the year they get to see me in person and many people told me they had been looking forward to meeting me and thanked me for their Kickstarter items. It was incredibly flattering I was so happy to see everyone. I also saw a lot of repeat customers who let me know they still love their plushies from last year which made my heart swell with joy.

My Kickstarter bats made their first appearance at this convention and were a huge hit. I know people love them, but selling in person bring a whole new depth to the experience. Online you don’t get to see the excitement when someone spots a bat from across the room and makes a bee-line to pick it up. Online people can’t carefully pet and pick out which bat will come home with them. You don’t get to see people walking away after purchasing, holding the bat so tight it’s like they will never let it go. And unlike when I sold handmade bats, I didn’t have to watch the disappointment when they were far out of the price range or most people or when they returned to buy one only to find they sold out the first day. It made all the headaches and sleepless nights of my Kickstarter campaign absolutely and completely worth it.

Announcements remain difficult to understand in the artist alley and the person doing the announcing was speaking in a conversational tone which they perhaps found humorous, but instead it made an already hard to understand speaker system into a long, drawn out, and awkward mess. While it might have seemed like fun, it just wasn’t working. They also screamed and “creepy laughed” into the microphone several times over the weekend which was not AT ALL appreciated or appropriate.


Unfortunately I did have one incident of theft at my table. On Friday and Saturday I had a bat stuck to my table cloth on display with super strong magnets. On Sunday I took photos of the table when I set up in the morning. As I uploaded them, I realized the bat was gone. I checked all around the table to see if maybe it had fallen (unlikely since they were very strong magnets and it went through 2 days of people knocking it around just fine). But there was no bat under the table. I even shook out the sheet I cover the table with thinking maybe it got tangled up in the sheet. The only sign of it was two magnets which had been holding one side of the wing on, still in place. My guess is someone pulled it out quickly and the magnets snapped to each other before they fell. If the bat had fallen off naturally, it would have either been hanging from that one wing still or the magnets would have fallen, too. There was no sign of the other two magnets for the other wing at all so my assumption is they stayed stuck to each other as well, slid off the bottom of the table cloth, and ended up on the stolen bat’s wings.  

I reported the theft to security and they took it very seriously. They told me staff had been sitting literally next to my table from midnight to 8am. Meaning it would have had to have been stolen either between 7:40pm (when I left) and midnight or between 8am and 9am (when I got back). Very specific times. They were very understanding and professional and took down the incident to report to Cobo Center security as well as my contact information. The Cobo might have had security cameras, I don’t know. I also had many kind and concerned staff members who noticed me in the security room and asked if I was okay or if I needed anything. Even in a secured room theft can happen, so I’m not very upset. I know better than to leave out anything I can’t afford to have stolen. I’m mostly disappointed at the person who took it because theft really is a rare thing in an artist alley, most people have more respect than that for artists just trying to support themselves by doing what they love. I hope that bat brings them no joy.

Again, I’m very grateful to how professional and kind staff were, it helped make a sucky situation a bit better.

Load Out

Similar to load in, this was easy. I packed everything on my cart, went to the roof, and my car was waiting there. It took less than 30 minutes to get on the road even with people coming in to the cobo and surrounding areas for a hockey game.

As an Attendee

I think my worst experience with Youmacon was as an attendee and with the hotel in general.

I absolutely hated the printed schedule. I had such a hard time reading it and understanding the dates and times. On top of that, panel names were cut off so I had to go look them up with the descriptions just to see the full name. The list with the descriptions was great but had no times. So if I found a panel I liked there I had to go try and find it on the schedule using only the first few words of the title. For a convention with this many panels, I’d love if they used an online schedule like Colossal Con does with the Grenadine Event Guide app. It’s much easier and there’s searches and stuff to help find things.

It was also insanely difficult to get from the cobo to the renaissance center due to the sheer amount of people. It took over an hour to get back each night which seriously cut back on the amount of time I had to enjoy myself at the convention. Sometimes the people mover would be full and we’d have to wait for another one. Once I got to the Renaissance Center it sometimes took 30 minutes to an hour just to get on an elevator and some of the escalators broke and were blocked off meaning it sometimes took 5-10 minutes just to get through an escalator line get to the next floor to get to the elevator so I could go back to the room and drop my cash box off in the room safe. Since there is no microwave in the hotel rooms, the only way to get hot dinner after a long day of work is to either go back downstairs (and take another 30 minutes to an hour just to get back upstairs) or expensive room service. The massive wait for elevators also kept us from going back for panels later in the night, it’s just too much time to give up when I have to be up in the morning for work. I suspect an average attendee who didn’t have to worry about a cash box would have a much easier time managing these waits, but no one likes waiting such a long time for an elevator.

We would have stayed elsewhere, but we were waiting to know the convention rates/hotels and they never announced the convention rates until August 19th. I was hoping for overflow rates at other hotels, but there were none. I really wish that Youmacon would negotiate convention rates with more hotels so that the choice isn’t paying double the cost for a hotel or waiting an hour every day for an elevator.

Final Thoughts

Youmacon is really an amazing convention. It’s hard to understand the size of the cobo center without seeing it or the particular atmosphere that comes from being in a city that is just as alive and awake at night as it is during the day. The artist alley was busy and this combined with finally having my galaxy bats made Youmacon my most profitable convention for the year. It is on par with the profits from Colossalcon, which have always been some of the best for me.

My helper mom and I were having a hard time coming up with negative things to say. All we could think of was the lack of clear communication over opening times, the theft of my galaxy bat, announcements weren’t good, and the massive wait for elevators in the convention hotel. Even then, the only deal breaker for us is the convention hotel elevators. We won’t be staying there again and sincerely hope for overflow hotels with convention rates next year.

Perhaps the best part was that my experiences with Youmacon staff were so greatly improved which really showed me that Youmacon cares and is always working on improving. I can’t wait for next year, I absolutely want to return!

 

And now for an extra special round of bonus pictures because there is lots of cool stuff at Youmacon:

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