Last week, a friend of mine attended FandomFest in Louisville, Kentucky. After hearing horror stories from her, and many other people who attended the con on sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook, I decided she needed to describe her experiences in her own words. This is not what cons are supposed to be like–yes, lines are a fact of life at cons, but not to this extreme. This experience has soured her on conventions in general, and I’m looking forward to attending Dragon Con with her and showing her not all large cons are like this. Hopefully FandomFest will shape up and next year’s con can be enjoyable for everyone.
Anyway, I’ll step aside and let her do the rest of the talking.
Saturday a friend and I went to FandomFest in Louisville, Kentucky with two objectives in mind: meeting Gillian Anderson and Norman Reedus. We did not buy VIP passes, but are experienced con attendees and as such, expected lines. What we found at FandomFest was far more than just the massive line we stood in. The entire experience was majorly disappointing and confusing. To begin with, we bought our tickets on Paypal but still had to stand in line for forty minutes to receive our wrist bands. This was in the Kentucky International Convention Center where we spent the entirety of our day. Right after receiving the band we were directed to a line that we were told by a crew member (yellow shirt) was a “General Admission” line. After an hour of just standing, we flagged down another crew member who told us that VIPs were in the convention room and after they left, our line would be allowed in. We were still confused as to if we were in a general admission line or a specific line. Many in the line had been told that it was a photo-op line. I finally found a staff member (purple shirt) who told that that we were in fact in the Norman Reedus autograph line. At this point, many people bailed the line, but as we were there to see Norman, we stayed in it.
A group of girls around us became our ‘line buddies’ and the ten of us stuck together the rest of the day, holding spots in the line as we needed to leave to use the restroom or eat. As I did not want to meet Norman Reedus, and was just hanging out in line with my friend, I left the line around 11 to stand in Gillian Anderson’s line. Two hours later when I returned to my friend, she had moved maybe fifteen feet in the line. I got us some lunch and flagged down a security guard and more crew members to again inquire as to whether or not we were actually in Norman Reedus’s line, only to be assured that we were. Unfortunately, around this point, we were no longer allowed to leave the room as ticket sales were stopped and the fire-marshal stepped in to limit the numbers of people in the convention. Around 1:30 Norman had to leave to do three hours of photo-ops. This was just as we got to the door of the staging area. (At this point we had been in line for over four hours and hadn’t even made it into the convention hall yet!!) It was when we got to the door and could see across the hall into the convention area that we realized people had been cutting our line the entire morning—and were continuing to do so. We began to complain to the security guard keeping us out of the halls and eventually a new crew member put a stop to the line jumpers by stationing another security guard at the end of that line. This was around 4 p.m. Norman came back to his line around 4:30 (I have to commend him because as far as I can tell he didn’t even take a lunch break or anything.) At just past 5 we made it into the convention hall—but our time was up. We had to leave due to our children being at home with babysitters. According to the girls around us it took another two hours after we left for them to get to Norman Reedus.
I’ve heard a lot of other stories concerning the con, but this is all I can speak to directly.
- We could not access the website at all.
- The map we were given in the Kentucky International Convention Center was not of the KICC but was instead of the parts of the con held at the Galt House.
- We spoke to over TEN Staff and Crew members throughout the day and were constantly told either inaccurate information of the more accurate but not at all helpful, “I don’t know”. Never did any of these people try to find information for us. They just disappeared into the crowd.
The only crew member who helped us at all, Marsha White, was as frustrated by the experience as we were. I, at least, got to leave the Never-Ending-Norman-Reedus line for an hour and a half to meet Gillian Anderson, but my friend paid $25 to stand in an eight hour line in a staging room of the convention center. It was a disappointing and frustrating experience, one that I will not repeat. Many changes need to be made to this convention, but I fear future attendees have already been lost due to the lack of concern shown to those who have made complaints or spoken up on social media.