Convention Review: Youmacon 2018

Convention Review: Youmacon 2018

Convention Review: Youmacon 2018

Welcome to another convention review.

For previous years reviews, please visit the following pages:

2015 -  https://beezeeart.com/blogs/beezeeartblog/181999559-convention-review-youmacon-2015
2016 - https://beezeeart.com/blogs/beezeeartblog/convention-review-youmacon-2016
2017 - https://beezeeart.com/blogs/beezeeartblog/convention-review-youmacon-2017


Youmacon is the largest anime convention in Michigan and it’s easy to see the charm in it. With tons of programming, great guests, a large dealer’s hall and artist alley, and large game room it’s a con with a high energy vibe right in my home state. No wonder I’ve been selling at it for 4 years in a row now!

However, I find that this year took a big slide back from last year for me which made this review difficult to write. That’s why it took so long to get this review off.

Don’t get me wrong, Youmacon is not a bad show. I don’t want to discourage anyone from applying or attending. Like I said, I love the atmosphere of this convention. I have the most repeat customers here, especially since I’m close enough to home to see my local friends attend, and I also enjoy it as an attendee. It’s also profitable which is important since attending a convention as an artist can be hundreds, or even thousands of dollars worth of investment. Obviously the positives outweigh the negatives for me so I still go and would love to return in the future.

As always, I write these reviews to give other artists an idea of what they’re getting themselves in to. Youmacon has a lot of room for improvement, especially this year with a move to a new room bringing around new issues to compound on top of old ones. With some preparation, though, there’s no major deal breakers.

Since I’ve reviewed this con in the past, I’m going to be a bit brief on some places where nothing has changed, so be sure to check out previous years for more information.



Rules

There continues to be no official rule list on the website for Youmacon. There is a file in the Youmacon Artist Alley Group of things that you cannot sell, though. https://www.facebook.com/notes/youmacon-artists-alley/youmacon-2017-dns-list/1476875079196987/

And another with a brief list of rules about table displays here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/youmacon-artists-alley/youmacon-aa-badges-tables-waiting-list-and-refunds/1496560070561821/

I also realized for the first time this year that Youmacon doesn’t have a contract and it’s the only con I can think of off the top of my head without a contract. A contract protects both the artist and the event in the event of a legal dispute and not having one for an event this large is concerning.

Sign Up

Sign up unfortunately continues to be a mess.

New this year sign up was split into 3 days. On the first day it was first come, first serve, and you could buy 2 tables. On the second day it was first come, first serve, and you could only buy 1 table. Another batch was supposed to release on the third day. We were only given about 4 days notice before the applications opened, not enough time for anyone who works a traditional job (which generally requires 2 weeks notice) to take the day off. Towards the end they switched things up and opened up a round of juried tables, recruiting help to jury them which was a welcome relief as I missed it every other time and lately I’ve been getting eventbrite issues when an event sells out too quickly (i.e. I add the ticket to my cart and it says it’s reserved for X minutes, enter info, click to checkout, get kickecked back to the ticket page, and I’ve lost my space).

First come first serve isn’t working for Youmacon. It hasn’t been working. I can pretty much promise it will sell out in seconds. There will be drama as people are frustrated and angry. It’s entirely up to luck, a good computer, and fast internet so there’s nothing anyone can do except vent and argue about it.

Ideally I’d personally like to see Youmacon juried. Though this takes additional time and effort for staff, it is my opinion that a juried convention leads to the best quality and variety possible which is good for both artists and customers. A convention this large can, and should, be a bit picky.

We were told this year was an experiment so it will more than likely change again moving into next year. It is my sincere hope that Youmacon will listen to my feedback as well as others and consider moving away from first come first serve. No method is perfect and someone will always complain, but I’m hoping to see some improvement!

Load In

Load in was more frustrating this year than in years past as well.

Artists were told we could use the loading docks or the cobo rooftop parking and carry our stuff in ourselves. This is the same as past years. Then just 2 hours before were told we were not able to use the loading dock via a post in the Facebook Group. Emails were not sent for those who don’t check Facebook that regularly (though it likely would have been too late as most artists would likely have already been driving on their way unless they were local.

The issue was resolved quickly, but artists could only drive our cars if we needed to drive in up to the divider between the artists and dealers so if someone had a large enough load they needed to drive in, that meant they’d have to carry their stuff all the way to their table from there.

While I appreciated the swift resolution, I feel it should not have been an issue in the first place. There was definitely a lack of communication somewhere along the line (I suspect between the teamsters and Youmacon staff though I have no way of knowing for sure).

The Cobo Rooftop parking received some changes as well. Now you pay upon entrance rather than exit. In previous years I always parked my car on the rooftop all weekend. Though there was signs saying no overnight parking, I confirmed with attendants each year that they do not tow, they charge an overnight fee which I was fine with doing.

The parking attendant Thursday informed me that the rules had now changed and I would be towed if I parked overnight.

That made parking was a hassle compared to previous years as I had to move my car around to different lots and pay significantly more in parking than I planned to park at my hotel.

I will have to figure out a better situation in the future. If anyone does things differently I’d like to hear it! I usually have several wagons full of stock and suitcases to move in on top of heavy wooden bits for my display so it’s difficult to walk to far and leaves things like the people mover, a long walk, or bus out of the question.

Once again, I hope Youmacon improves on this area in the future. Perhaps they can speak to the rooftop parking about weekend passes for vendors and artists? (Gosh that would be so nice)

Communication

Again, communication continues to be almost entirely through the Facebook group. If you use Faceboook regularly (like me) you’ll love it. If you don’t, you will hate it.

When I do get an answer, though, it is always polite so I appreciate that!


At the Con

The dealers and artists moved to a new room this year down the hall from the old room. There were some pros and cons to this set up. This was a larger space so more artists and vendors fit. However, I don’t necessarily think this was a better space. There isn’t as much room in front of the main doors as the last hall. It was a bit cramped and dark and entering or exiting usually meant immediately tripping over people who were sitting or standing by the doors. It also meant there was little to indicate that was where artists and vendors were since the doors were generally closed, or one was open for attendees to come in. There was a large sign saying dealers, but it was only facing one way, if I recall correctly, and I remembering thinking it didn’t have an arrow pointing towards the doors which was a bit confusing whether it meant down the hall or to the side.  


I generally like placing artists before dealers in a room layout as dealer’s tend to have a bigger draw which pulls people towards the back of the room. However there was a giant dividing wall completely blocking dealer’s and artists. I talked to some people who didn’t even know that dealers were back there at al! You couldn’t see unless you happened to walk down the artist aisle that had the small opening to the dealers.



Traffic was significantly slower on the far wall where I was compared to the side of the room where the doors were. I think it would have helped to remove the divider between artists and dealers as it created some dead spaces in the room where there didn’t need to be any. Traffic didn’t flow as well as it could have and the combination of not much space in front of the doors and only one aisle to get to the dealers created a weird bottleneck area.
I also encountered some issues with staff upon re-entering the room every single time I left the room which made for a very frustrating weekend. The main issue was staff usually tried to send me to the back of the line without listening to me when I tried to explain I was an artist with an artist badge and needed to get back to my table. I can’t avoid leaving to get food or visit the bathroom (especially since the bathroom in the alley near me was shut down for a good chunk of time one day). Each time I basically bullied my way in because there was no way I was waiting in line, but I didn’t appreciate the rude attitudes. Perhaps in the future there needs to be a more clear discussion of how to handle artists/dealers who need re-entry or a separate door for artists/dealers to enter.



At one point I was trying to bring a very large piece of rolling luggage to my table full of new stock and right as I got to the door the alley opened to attendees. The door opened to the alley was crowded with attendees and there was no space for me to get through them to even get to the badge checkers by the door. Meanwhile since we just opened no one was trying to leave so I asked the people at the exit if I could just pop in through there, I explained I was an artist, showed them my artist badge, and asked if I could just pop through quickly. They refused and were rather rude about it. I don’t remember the exact phrasing they used, but it was something along the line of, “I don’t care, that’s your problem to figure out not mine.”

I understand that rules are rules and perhaps they weren’t allowed to let anyone in for safety reasons (it happens often at cons, though I always ask because they are sometimes willing to let in artists, dealers, and other staff members who might have extenuating circumstances, it just depends in my experience on whether the entrances/exits are there because the fire code demanded it or to help improve traffic flow and I never know which it is unless I ask). There was a polite way to express this if this was the case, though. They could have simply said, “Sorry, I can’t let you through here for safety reasons,” and I’d have said, “Okay, thanks anyway” and left. Instead staff chose to be rude. And, frankly, if I can’t access the artist alley as an artist that sounds like it is a problem for staff to me!

It was just frustrating all around. Every time I had to leave my table to get food or go to the bathroom I came back angry after having to argue with staff. It was unnecessary and annoying. This isn’t the first time I’ve had issues with rude Youmacon staff at the door, in the past they had a rude staff member with a megaphone yelling at attendees who were lining up. It’s disappointing that the issue has cropped back up again and I hope it is address as it was in the past.

Another weird issue was the bathroom situation. I’m not sure I’ve ever really had to complain about having access to a bathroom before.

The bathroom for the room the dealers and artists are in is simply too small to accommodate the crowds in there. I know this is not an issue Youmacon can control, but there was often a line for the bathroom during peak times. I waited 20 minutes at one point and I thought I was going to wet myself. At another point in the day the bathroom was completely closed for well over an hour. It wasn’t until mid weekend that I discovered there was another bathroom on the far side of the room behind the dealers. It was a bit of a walk, especially when it was crowded, and was also was regularly out of toilet paper, at one point I had to toss some to three different people because only one stall had any. Yet it was still faster than waiting 20 minutes in a bathroom line. I heard from other artists there may have been a closer bathroom in the hallway outside, but didn’t like leaving and re-entering due to the issues I had with staff at the door.

So for future artists and attendees, scope out the bathroom situation early to avoid standing in long lines unnecessarily!

Finally, the announcements were completely unintelligible. No one knew what they were saying and it wasn’t clear when the hall was closing. I’m not sure what else they tried to announce, I honestly couldn’t understand a word of it.  

I know a lot of this was growing pains from being in a new place. I think removing the dividers will help. I also think it will help to reorganize the way the lines in and out of the room work, perhaps place badge check well before the doors so the doors can be left open and reduce the bottleneck effect? Whatever they do, I’m sure there will be a lot learned from the mistakes. Though that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to have to deal with them.

I know this section sounds overwhelmingly negative, but I didn’t have a bad time. It was slower than I’m used to, but I have a lot of loyal Youmacon customers which helped make up for it. You guys always find me no matter where I end up and I appreciate it more than you know! I brought my friend Shi as a helper instead of Helper Mom and she was worn out from how large the event was and a bit overwhelmed, but overall she had a great time, too. Maybe I should start calling her Helper Shi if she keeps coming to events with me?

It was likely one of the last shows I’ll have black and purple galaxy bats at, too, at least for awhile which was a bit bittersweet.

I also caught up with a lot of artist friends and made new ones, too. All the bad things were just like buzzing flies. Annoying, but easy to ignore in the end.

As an Attendee

I seriously had SO MUCH FUN this Youmacon. I don’t know if I just planned better or what, but it was a whirlwind and things to do.

We arrived too late on Thursday to set up so I gave Shi a micro tour of Detroit since she’d never been by taking the people mover around. Our hotel wasn’t on the people mover path so we checked in first then walked to the nearest station. We stopped at the Ren Cen to give her a taste of what the main hotel was like (also to help understand why we don’t stay there, I’m too old to wait in line for an hour for elevators and I need my sleep). After a creepy maze run through the under construction food court we grabbed dinner, then took a few more loops on the people mover to see what we could see and play some Pokemon Go.

Friday was load in so we were tired and after the show we went right back to the hotel room to work on Saturday’s cosplays and sleep. Shi got her first official eeveelution costume as umbreon to join the strange eevee party I like to rock during cons.

Saturday we had reservations at Maru so we flew through packing up and headed there for some of the best sushi. It’s now become a tradition to treat ourselves whenever we’re in Detroit even though we have a Maru locally, the Detroit location just seems more special. Then it was back for some panels (Shi’s first time attending con panels). We had a small hiccup where we weren’t able to find one of the panel rooms and we stopped a staff member to ask for directions. They didn’t know where it was either which was a bit of a dissapointment, but they did take our picture which is always a cool compliment. Of course I like 18+ humor panels the best so we did that and had a blast. Then we hung out for a bit in the Cobo and got some professional photos taken in front of a backdrop. 

It might sound boring, but honestly it was a ton of fun. We got stopped for photos often and met up with lots of other people cosplaying the same eeveelutions. Again, I always like the vibe of Youmacon. It’s upbeat and high energy, but welcoming enough there’s plenty of ways to enjoy yourself and participate without feeling awkward.  

Sunday of course was load up so we didn’t get to have any fun, but Thursday and Saturday’s adventures made up for it.

Load out

I had no issues with load out and was able to easily get my stuff to the roof where I brought my car that morning. No paying on exit sped up leaving the parking garage and we were on our way with time to spare to make a pit stop at Ikea while we were on this side of the state and spend all the money we just made.

Final Thoughts

There was definitely a step backwards this year for Youmacon. Miscommunications and difficulties with sign up coupled with a new location to create a lot of frustration. Overall, though, it was manageable. I did a little bit poorer than I’d have liked personally compared to previous years, but overall I still did well especially considering the less than ideal location I was in. I still consider Youmacon to be a really fun con and absolutely worth attending as both an attendee and an artist. I’m hopeful that the sign up process will be improved in the future and that Youmacon will be able to learn from mistakes this year and improve the layout of the new room for next year. 


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