About two and a half weeks ago, I received an email acceptance of three panels for Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con! Despite the short notice, I was able to rearrange my schedule for an earlier flight into Chicago so Matthew Drake and I could rent a car and drive down to St. Louis. I got into Chicago very early Thursday morning (after recording my new Cargo Crate Unboxing video very late on Wednesday night), took a nap, then re-packed my suitcase for the trip on Friday. My co-panelist Matthew stayed at my house that night so we could put the final touches on our panels for the weekend. Friday was another early day of catching public transit to the Midway airport then taking a shuttle to the car rental place.
When we got to the rental place, we found out that unless we had a return ticket for the day we returned the car, we needed to have a credit card with $100 on it. Neither of us had this and neither of us knew we’d need this. Our original plan of getting to St. Louis in a leisurely fashion with ample time to drop off our things, shower, eat, and change into cosplays turned into driving as fast as we could just so we could try to make it to our panel on time.
Somehow, we made it both to St. Louis and into the convention center at 3:52pm (our panel started at 4) to grab our wristbands and then could. Not. Find. Our. Panel. Room. We knew it was room 151 but were directed first through a hallway that was locked, then outside to re-enter through doors that were locked. We finally cut through the exhibitors’ hall and found the room…with a much smaller audience than we anticipated. It turns out that attendees weren’t able to find out room either (unsurprising, due to volunteers giving us differing information). After brief technical issues, we connected the computer and had an awesome time presenting “What Not to Ask at a Celebrity Q&A.” After the panel, we meandered the show floor, then headed to a comedy panel presented by Aaron Rabe as Cpt. Jack Sparrow. Rabe’s comedic rapport with his audience was great but the audience volunteers were a bit lackluster. We left the con before it closed for the day so we could order pizza and work on tomorrow’s panels.
Saturday, we slept in before heading to the convention for the Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things panel. He was totally adorable but, despite the moderator saying something to the effect of “Don’t ask him questions about season 2, don’t ask him personal questions, etc.” she didn’t do a great job of buffering these questions when they were asked. We then walked the floor a bit more before getting sandwiches at a nearby shop. Compared to other conventions I attend, Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con is on the small side. I estimate that it’s the size of Totalcon, Templecon, or Wizard World Madison, which are the smallest cons I’ve been to. The limited number of vendors at WW St. Louis meant we didn’t feel like spending the whole day inside the convention center. Instead, we opted to leave after our second panel, “Comic Con on a Budget.” We stopped for groceries on our way back, dining on snack foods and wine as we finished up the next day’s panel.
Sunday, we went to the con first thing in the morning so we we were able to get a parking spot in the less expensive garage right next to the convention center. I woke up early to contour my face in hopes of evoking more Keira Knightley and less Jewel Staite. I think I did a pretty good job for my first try. Rather than wearing my beloved Kaylee cosplay, I elected to wear the Elizabeth Swann outfit that I made last fall. It worked perfectly with our pirate panel that day. The panelists before us ran late, which was frustrating as we needed all the time we could get for “Historical Accuracy & Trivia in Pirate Media (Black Sails & PotC).” At previous Wizard World events, a Wizard World representative comes into the room at 20 till the end to give a 5 minute warning before ending panels at 15 till. This was not the case at this event where Matthew & I sat at the back of our panel room, waiting for the folks in front of us to wrap up. Unfortunately, many of the clips we wanted to show did not work, but we still had an awesome and informative panel. It’s one of my favorite panels to present, especially because I learn something new every year! After that, we finished at the con, packed up, and got going on our long trip back to Chicago.
Overall, Wizard World St. Louis was a pretty different convention than what I am used to. Its smaller scale meant it was a more intimate show and, had we been interested, we could have met some of the cool celebrities more easily there than at other events. Most conventions stage celebrities in their own section with curtains and lines for meeting them. At Wizard World St. Louis, the celebs were easily approachable in the center of the exhibitors’ floor. St. Louis also had multiple stages, mostly notable a large main stage behind registration where the costume contest and the Rocky Horror Picture Show occurred. Inside the exhibitors’ hall, there were three smaller stages: the Entertainment Stage at the front, where we saw the kids costume contest and an acapella group perform; the Creative Stage in the back, where artists and cosplayers spoke & presented; and the Kids Stage which had magic & puppetry. Down the hall, the panel rooms were hidden away and quite hard to find. Matthew and I agreed that the convention hall seemed much too big for the convention itself. We thought a nearby hotel would be better off housing this convention, given its current size.
All things said and done, it was an enjoyable convention experience. It was definitely more relaxed than other conventions I’ve done, but there are benefits to going to smaller cons. My next convention is the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), and it will be interesting to compare the differences between the two!