By: Guest blogger Brigid Laurie
When your packing list includes “tube of fake blood” you know you’re going to have a good time.
Creation’s DCcon was my first fan convention of any sort. I had never been to a Comic-Con, a Wizard World, another show convention – anything like that. I have to admit, I wasn’t really well versed in how many Supernatural cons there are until about a year ago. I live in the Washington DC area and we only had our first con last year. Last year it simply wasn’t feasible for me to attend. But that gave me over a year to plan for DCcon 2015. And for all my planning, real life still managed to interfere. But overall, that didn’t matter. In fact, it might’ve worked out for the best. Let’s make that stone number one and build on it.
So, that said, allow me to be your guide to being the new kid at the con. Learn from my mistakes, and take notes on the things I did right. I’m not going to recap the panels. I’ve seen videos from DCcon online already, so that information is out there if you need it. What I really want to share with you is the first time con experience.
I’m sure many con goers did what I did. The con went on sale and I immediately bought the package I wanted. In my case, that was the Copper package. It offered admission to everything except the Sunday morning Gold Panel, but no extras. Then, like a fool, I googled SPN cons only to find an amazing array of stories ranging from blissful to horrifying. Of course, I got stuck on horrifying and thought, “Non-refundable ticket… what have I done?”
Luckily, I came back to my Supernatural online home base – that would be Fangasm – and read some truly wonderful stories from one of the other cons. That’s when common sense kicked in and I remembered that no matter what you do, there’s going to be someone who tries to ruin it for you and others who elevate the entire experience. So now, I was ready to venture forth into whatever weirdness would come my way… approximately six months later. In other words, I had time to obsess.
Before The Con
Right, I know, this isn’t the fun part. But it’s important. If you can’t afford to go, that’s no fun. I get it, but real life has to be the priority. Stop torturing yourself and promise yourself you’ll try to go another year. Then work towards that and forget about the one you can’t attend. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you can afford to go all out and get every perk, autograph, photo op, etc. Great! Do that! Have the time of your life.
Most of us are going to fall somewhere in between those extremes. Don’t think for a minute that this has to be an all or nothing scenario. Think about what you really want and plan from there. I chose attending the con over a big night out at a concert I had planned on going to and another weekend away. If all you really want is to see Misha Collins and Tahmoh Penikett and they are on the same day (although – warning! The schedule does sometimes change) then you can get away with a one day ticket, and maybe roll some of those savings into photo ops or autographs. If you want to take tons of your own photos, then it might make more sense for you to spring for one of the better packages to have a seat closer to the stage.
Think through what you want to get out of this mini-vacation and budget for it the same way you would budget for a weekend at the beach or theme park.
Creation is a well-oiled machine. They know how to make money, which means they are very good at getting us to open our wallets. The good news is, they also provide a solid con experience. But, as the con gets closer and closer they will send you emails telling you that photos or autographs are selling out (for DCcon, Jensen and Jared autographs were sold out for months) or that the meet and greet auctions are coming up. I am not completely sure how those meet and greet options work. I wasn’t going to spend the money on them, so I didn’t even tempt myself by looking into it for more than five minutes.
Where Do I Stay?
If you live near the con, you might be able to commute to it. Keep in mind that Friday and Saturday are likely to run until anywhere from midnight to 2am, and that things could start as early as 9am Saturday and Sunday. Be honest about whether or not you want to drink at the parties or if you’re going to be concerned about missing out on something that happened at an after party. Check parking rates and compare those to cabs and mass transit. Factor in your time, too. It’s one thing to commit to a 15 minute drive, another to drive 2 hours to and from the con each day.
Even though I could have commuted in and out of the District all three days, it was more important to me to be able to settle in like this was a Supernatural Fantasy Camp. I wanted to unpack my well planned wardrobe for the weekend and simply be at the heart of the action. I chose staying on site over autographs, photo ops, and meet and greets.
However, I also knew that there was going to be a vendors room and that other things would pop up that I’d want to do. As a result, I decided on an amount of money that I was comfortable spending. I took that in cash and that was all I was going to spend at the con. I allowed for some splurging in there, in case there was something I simply couldn’t pass up.
Accept that this is your experience
In other words, cons are supposed to be fun; don’t stress yourself out worrying about the money. Figure out how much you can spend and then don’t worry about what you aren’t doing; thoroughly enjoy what you can do. Disregard Richard Speight’s pleas to start worrying about next year’s con, although those pleas are pretty hilarious.
Waiting Out the Time to the Con
So now I had my plan in place. (I’m planner, it’s how I roll.) And there were still five months to go. This does have an incredible advantage or disadvantage depending on how you look at it. If you buy tickets and go within the week, staying on budget is pretty easy. If you buy tickets and then have a few months, you might get tempted by some perks.
Okay, so I was tempted by some perks.
I was talking to one of my best friends about the con. She’s not into Supernatural, but she’s obsessed with The Walking Dead, so she Got It. She understood why I wanted to go to this thing. She kept pointing out that everyone wants the photo op. According to her, I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t get a photo with Jared. She even used his first name, like I’d be denying myself a photo with a friend as opposed to an actor. I pointed out that a Jared photo op is around $150. The op only lasts around 15 seconds. That’s $36,000/hour. Which is, you know, a tad high for an hourly rate. On the bright side, that wedding photographer I had all those years ago seems incredibly reasonable now.
I held strong. For maybe a month. And then I started engaging in Fan Math.
As I pointed out, $150 for a photo with Jared Padalecki seems pricey. I just couldn’t possibly justify paying that much for an 8×10 glossy with a stranger. Let’s remind ourselves of that. We don’t know them. They don’t know us. This is a photo with a stranger.
A stranger that I’d like to meet, though.
And it’s really part of the experience. This photo with a stranger.
And what is a stranger, really, but a friend you have yet to meet?
Damn it! Fine, I’ll scroll through the photos ops page and double check on Jared’s… Whoa! Rob Benedict is only $50? That’s a mere $12,000/hour! That’s a bargain. Okay, so that’s $200 for two photos. $100 a piece? Okay, I’m in.
Damn you, Fan Math.
Happily, because I did this before the con, I paid that credit card bill off immediately. Which, for me, made a huge difference – I could stop worrying about that cost. The money was gone, now I might as well just look forward to the photos. And if I really wanted to, I could sell the ops to someone else or trade them for some autographs.
Right, like that was going to happen.
Real Life and Online Socializing
Having never been to a con before I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing during any down time. I searched Facebook for a DCcon group and joined. There were over 1,000 members of the group, all of which were people who were attending/trying to attend/hoping to find a last minute ticket to DCcon. I’d guess it was only around 40-50 people who posted anything. And it was a much smaller group that posted on any sort of regular basis. This Facebook group was – and still is – wonderful! There were plenty of people who had attended cons before and could give advice. There were several newbies like me so I knew I wasn’t alone in this. We were warned about the lack of sleep and the skipped meals. There were suggestions to pack food to keep in the room and carry easy to eat stuff like trail mix and drink lots of water.
Because I am an idiot, I disregarded most of this common sense advice, figuring that I was in a major US city. It’s not like I was going to be hiking the Outback. I was going to be able to find a snack. Obviously. Right?
The Facebook group hosted a Cards Against Humanity tournament on Friday night. I figured if they played Cards Against Humanity they couldn’t be too bad. Or rather, they were the right amount of awful and inappropriate and we would get along just fine. I was right.
Practical Advice. No really.
The Facebook group was a place to ask about cosplay, where to drop off the food that Random Acts was collecting for a local shelter, and other things as I thought of them at any hour of the day or night. People from out of town were able to figure out carpools or cabs to and from the airport, find roommates, ask about parking, etc. This is a must do if you’re going to a con. Even if all you do is lurk in the group, you’ll get a sense of who is attending and maybe pick up some ideas for those photo ops your friend talked you into.
If you plan on cosplaying, or even just doing a nod to the characters with a flannel, or you want to wear your Always Keep Fighting, #SPNFamily, or Hello Boys shirt, start a packing list. Even if you are driving in from home for the con each day, set all your stuff aside so it’s ready to go and you know it won’t be in the laundry basket the day you want to wear it.
I ended up in two outfits a day. If you need props for photos or a cosplay, think about how you’ll get them there. If you’re flying, you’re going to have to check that angel blade or send it ahead. If you are cosplaying something with a lot of makeup, remember make up remover. Need to spirit gum something to your face? Make sure you’re not allergic before the con. Remember to pack the spirit gum and the remover.
Yes, I packed a tube of fake blood.
And don’t forget you’ll need normal stuff too: pajamas, underwear, regular make up if you wear it – I splurged on really good concealer to cover up any dark circles or zits that might creep up on me before the photo ops, your contacts or glasses, toiletries, etc… and of course your TICKETS. Take your various tickets for the con, for transportation, autographs, and photos. Have all of that printed out and ready to go.
Now, panic briefly, smile widely, and get yourself to the con.
At The Con
It’s finally here. After months of planning, it’s time to see what this thing is all about. Rather than walking through the schedule and reviewing everything chronologically, I’m going to break this down by type of activity. That way you can browse through this to find whatever sort of information you might need.
Arriving and Getting Your Wristband
If you’ve never been to a con before, just walking in can be a little awkward. Especially if you’re walking in by yourself and you really aren’t expecting the hotel to acknowledge your SPN Family in any form. I’m not sure why, but I assumed there would be no mention of Supernatural.
I arrived at DCcon by myself on Friday around 10:30am. I didn’t look particularly odd – I wasn’t in a Rowena gown or anything like that. I was just wearing some nice ‘fem Winchester’ style clothes – torn jeans, a camisole, and a flannel. (This also doubles as ‘fem Eddie Vedder’ if you ever need that costume. And if I’m being completely honest, this outfit is more or less what I wore to school every day of 1993.) I was offered a Supernatural package which consisted of breakfast coupons, internet upgrades, and Red Bull. This really should’ve been my first clue as to how to how much is packed into the schedule.
When you register with the con if you have a weekend pass you will get a wristband. It doesn’t come off, and it is checked every time you enter the theater. If you are concerned about it showing in photo ops, plan accordingly. Either have a cuff or a sleeve that can cover it up or plan on standing with that arm out of sight.
Chances are you’ll have a little time to kill before the opening of the con. Like pretty much everyone else I headed to the vendors room. It was surprisingly small. This is a bit of a blessing – instead of rows upon rows of merchandise, it’s only a few tables, and in DC at least two were charities. Also, if at all possible, bring some canned goods for Random Acts. I dropped a bag of nonperishables off with Random Acts immediately, and yes, I included two cans of tomato rice soup on behalf of Dean and Mary.
Panels – also known as why we are here
Obviously, panels are a big part of the con. The panels are entirely audience Q and A. Because this is a single theater show, you don’t have to worry about choosing which panel to go to. None of the panels overlap. There may be times when autographs, meet and greets, or photos cut into panels, but It’s not like you have to choose between seeing Panel A or Panel B.
Not all seats are equal. My seat had a great view of the stage and a decent view of the video monitors. For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t get a good picture for anything. That’s why any photos in this post are Lynn’s.
If you can’t get a good photo, the sooner you accept that, the better. Someone will record everything. In fact, chances are excellent that the panels will be on YouTube within a week.
If you ask a question keep two things in mind:
1. The actor might not know what you’re talking about, or could get confused about seasons of the show or exact episodes. Part of the reason we know the show so well is that we watch it in order. They shoot the show out of order and sometimes scenes they’ve filmed don’t make the episode. That scene where Crowley was plotting against them? They were mentioned, but they weren’t in it. If they make a mistake about whether it was in Season 8 or 9, don’t sweat it.
2. Don’t make your question about yourself, your friends, or anyone not affiliated directly with the people on the stage. As much as the SPN Family loves and supports you and wants to talk about our reciprocal relationship with the show at any given moment, suddenly that no longer matters. During the panel the audience does not care about your connection to the show. Really. We don’t. We just stopped caring. Stop talking. We. Don’t. Care. Right. Now. We will commence caring again once the panel is over.
‘Cause The Angels Gonna Play Play Play Play Play
The people you meet at the con are automatically going to have something in common with you. They also thought that a weekend of nerding out over Supernatural sounded like a great idea. I started talking to the woman sitting next to me. As it turns out, Stephanie is pretty awesome. Between panels on Friday we decided to grab a quick bite in the bar. We had a great time, talked about all sorts of things, mostly real world related. It took some time to get our appetizers and drinks (note, that’s not a whole meal…) and then we tried to catch Osric Chau’s panel.
Unfortunately, we missed part of that panel because WE RAN INTO TRAVIS AARON WADE in the bar. He was just hanging out with con attendees. Sorry Osric, but you have a panel tomorrow, too.
Stephanie and I spent some time talking to Travis Aaron Wade about Star Wars and making friends at cons. Really. That happened. Oh, and he hugged both of us. Twice. And because that wasn’t weird enough, he initiated the hugs.
So, yeah, cons are pretty cool.
On Sunday, I bumped into Osric Chau at check out. For as cool as I was bumping into Travis Aaron Wade, I was the complete opposite with Osric Chau. I hugged him and might have spoken. I was a bit starstruck, but come on, he’s Kevin freakin’ Solo. I was informed later, after my brain came back online, that he was delightful.
On Sunday while I was waiting for a photo op I finally had a chance to talk to the women who had been sitting in front of me all weekend. They reminded me of hanging out with my best friends from college. When I asked how long they’d known each other I fully expected to hear about weddings and baby showers and that so-and-so got them into Supernatural. They told me, that for most of them, this was the first they’d met in real life. They were online friends who decided to meet up a con together. Two of them who lived closer to each other had met once or twice before. That touched me. I really assumed they had known each other thirty years, their camaraderie was real.
I was not expecting that level of con bonding. I’d heard of it, and oddly just talked about it with THE GUY WHO PLAYS COLE! who wanted to know how long Stephanie and I knew each other, but until that moment on Sunday, I really believed that was just some line that was thrown out there.
And The Demons Gonna Hate Hate Hate Hate Hate
Unfortunately I managed to meet the one person there having a bad time. Lucky me!
She brought her teenaged daughter as a gift and clearly, she thought this whole thing was way below her. She started a conversation with me about my shoes, so it’s not like her icebreaker was the Iran Nuclear Deal. Then she started asking about my involvement in the fandom. I obliged because I thought she was being friendly.
I’m not sure why she thought the woman taking notes and dressing up as Abaddon was going to share her belief that this was a waste of time, but for some reason she thought I’d be on her side. Maybe she thought I was a reporter who took blending in very seriously. After I joyfully answered her questions about my fan activities, she spent fifteen minutes talking down to me. I was so surprised by this rude turn of events that it took me a bit to realize she was belittling me for enjoying writing about the episodes. I guess engaging in the plot and tracking the development of the themes is too much work for her. Or maybe she thought I was incredibly selfish to make time to do things I enjoy. But, just like on the internet, if you’re polite and ignore the bait, the troll will eventually slink back under their bridge.
If someone tries to ruin your fun, it’s okay to walk away, or to politely tell them to leave. You literally have an entire theater full of people who will support you in this.
Food/Drink/Sustenance of Any Kind
Hey! Hey! Newbie!! Listen up!
Do not do what I did. I should’ve taken heed of that “bring food” suggestion that I read on Facebook a few dozen times. I kept thinking, “there’s a deli across the street, I’ll be fine.” I made it to that deli once.
If you attend a con and don’t have anything on your schedule between the last Friday panel and karaoke – get dinner. Trust me on this. I know, Newbie, I know. There are new friends to make and a bar where you might have discussed Star Wars with the guy who plays Cole, so who has time for a sandwich? You do. You really, really do. Cole Trenton would want you to eat.
I didn’t get the sandwich. I am a fool.
Hahaha. Just kidding. There’ll be none of that.
No, seriously, there’s not a lot of sleep to be had at a con. You know how much sleep you need to have a pleasant next day. Try to get that. You won’t but you can try. A pounding headache will not make you have a better time on Sunday. I can vouch though that a pounding headache will not ruin your day either.
Most people seemed to be saying they slept around 5 hours. I have two children under the age of 5 and I’m an insomniac. My usual night is set at Insomnia Level: Dean Winchester. Basically, people who don’t live with kids reacted with “I only slept for five hours, where’s that Red Bull from check in?” People with little kids were saying, “Oh my god I slept for five hours in a row! I can do anything!”
At least that’s how it worked Friday and Saturday. By Sunday I had reached Insomnia Level: Sam Winchester. I think I started hallucinating Lucifer at one point. Or maybe that was a cosplayer. No matter, the point is, there’s no shame in taking a nap if you have some time between events.
You won’t though. Enjoy that Red Bull.
Friday Night Karaoke
Go to karaoke. If you don’t want to sing, that’s fine. They won’t get to everyone who wants to sing anyway, so there’s no pressure on the non-singers to get up there and pretend they’re having fun. There’s always a theme to karaoke and many people will dress up accordingly, but showing up in jeans and a tee shirt is fine, too.
Just admit that you want to stick around until they sing “Carry On Wayward Son.” We all do, and we’re all going to sing along.
Once that’s over crawl into bed, tomorrow starts in about 7 hours.
If cosplay isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Plenty of people came to the con dressed in their regular clothes, or in ‘cosplay light’ – which means they own a flannel. If you own any of the charity tees or Supernatural themed shirts, this is the place to break those out. Of course there were some cosplays so good you had to look twice. One Bobby was so good that I thought Jim Beaver was a surprise guest. Since I was responsible and packed my fake blood, I was able to cosplay Abaddon. My husband dressed as Crowley.
You are going to want to check out how your cosplaying will line up with your photo ops. Make sure you have time to change clothes between ops if you want, or you have time to change out your make up. Once again, this comes down to prioritizing. For example, would you rather get to wear your homemade Baby costume, or would you rather look your cutest for that picture with Tahmoh?
My Rob Benedict photo op was about 30 minutes after the costume contest where I was rocking a latex neck wound. Once again that decision to stay on site worked out for me. Two valuable lessons learned for future con experience. One, if you are competing in the costume contest, apply your latex prosthetics as close to the competition time as possible. At the contest at 2pm, my recapitation looked pretty good, but at 9am it was great if I do say so myself.
Because of the tight turnaround between the costume contest and my Rob Benedict photo op, I toned down the gore on my Abaddon costume so that it would be easier to remove any visible wounds and then have a relatively “normal” photo taken. Remember how I reminded you to pack the make up remover and mentioned my splurge on good concealer? I get the win on those ideas. I was able to remove the excess spirit gum from my neck easily, and then the industrial grade concealer covered up the red marks from where I peeled off the latex.
Filler Stuff (Trivia, Favorite Episode Discussion, etc.)
This is exactly like it sounds – filler. There is a chance to win gift certificates for merchandise during trivia, but honestly, if you don’t have anything else going on at this time, eat or take a nap.
The fan vids are not filler. They are incredible and if possible you really should check out what your fellow fans have made. I’m confident that the fanvid “Who Likes the Moose?” will make its way into more fandom things from here on out.
[Note from Lynn: If you haven’t watched that vid yet, what are you waiting for???]
Saturday Night Special (concert)
The Saturday Night Special shouldn’t be missed. It’s a 90 minute to 2 hour show featuring Loudon Swain, with Mark Sheppard sitting in on drums. Some of the other actors perform, too, as do some of the people from Creation. And yes, another performance of “Carry On Wayward Son” is included. It is every bit as cool as you think. What you might not realize though, is that “I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends” as a closer is every bit as awesome.
The concert ended earlier than I expected, it was merely midnight. It was time to crash. Sunday is J2 Day after all, and that photo op deserves a good night’s rest. (No, I didn’t get a good night’s rest.)
I didn’t get any autographs, so I can’t personally vouch for how those work. It seemed incredibly well organized. The people I met who got autographs all seemed very happy with their experience. You need to bring something to be signed. If you don’t have anything, there are plenty of reasonably priced photos in the vendors room.
Sunday morning is an odd limbo at an SPN con for anyone not attending the Gold Panel. At DCCon, panels didn’t start until 2pm. There were meet and greets and photo ops in the morning. To accommodate this, the theater opened up to everyone after the Gold Panel ended.
You’re going to have to find something to do in the morning if you don’t have a photo op. Obviously, sleep would be a great choice, only chances are you’ve checked out of your room by this time. Once the theater is open, you can just go hang out in there. I know that sounds really lame, but trust me on this. The energy in the room is palpable. Talking to people waiting for their photo ops is just plain fun. Everyone comes out of their op a little glassy eyed and giddy. At this point, I started getting butterflies for my early afternoon Jared photo op.
The butterflies confused me. I am not one to panic in an emergency. I don’t get worked up over meeting with superiors or having to present to “Important People.” So why, oh why was I nervous all day? I was going to have a grand total of 15 seconds with an actor who will not remember me and can’t possibly care. This is not a job interview, it’s an expensive photo. So why all the internal drama?
I put some thought into this. For me at least, it’s the combination of wanting a few things to come together a. meeting someone from the show; b. having your photo turn out the way you want, whether you’re going for a scene from the show, something funny, or just want to have your eyes open and no lipstick on your teeth; c. you don’t want to embarrass yourself by saying something weird. Then to add in that you know you have about 15 seconds to pull this off. And in the age of digital cameras, you don’t know what the photo looks like until you pick up the print. I really think the killer is that it’s so fast. With 15 seconds or less there is no room for error, and it’s not like you’re going to get a do over.
And why did my head hurt? (Okay, some of that was cocktail based…) but all in all that adrenaline that’s been so helpful all weekend – well, by Sunday it’s going to start catching up to you.
Also not helping? The grand total of 2 meals and 4 glasses of water over the last two days. Not enough food, not enough water, not enough sleep, charismatic leaders… wait a minute! I saw this Afterschool Special! I think I joined a cult!
Oh, wait I did that before I got here. This is just initiation into the next level.
Photo ops are the defining take away of the con. When I first bought my tickets, I had no real desire to pick up any photos because they were so expensive, and honestly, what am I supposed to do with them once I have them? By the time I got to the con, I had purchased two photo ops: Rob Benedict and Jared Padalecki.
On Saturday afternoon I lined up for my Rob photo and I think the entire line of people was done in four minutes. I cannot emphasize enough just how quickly the ops go by. My photo experience with the Prophet Chuck was so short it honestly might have been less than ten seconds long. I froze. About a minute after walking out of the op I realized I didn’t even say my one planned sentence to him. (Therefore, I’ll mention it here. Rob Benedict, if you happen to read this, I want you to know that I thoroughly enjoyed your work in Not Another Teen Movie.)
My next photo wasn’t until 1pm Sunday. Hmmm… I had already blanked on talking to “Chuck,” and I drew a blank when I bumped into “Kevin,” things weren’t looking so good for keeping my cool with “Sam.”
After my ticket group was called to queue up for their Jared ops, I was ushered through the line. When I was two people away from my op someone informed that I was not to ask for a hug unless it was in the photo. I didn’t have any better ideas for the photo and a hug sounded downright pleasant. Okay, hug photo it is. I was wearing a women’s version of Sam’s Season 1 purple dog tee shirt. I wanted to wear something Supernatural without it actually saying Supernatural.
When it was my turn Jared immediately told me he loved my shirt. Score 1 for me. I thanked him and then he guided me into position. I was grateful for the direction. He knows how to do this, he has thousands of photos taken at each of these things. He doesn’t need a newbie like me standing in the wrong place. The wonderful Creation photographer, Chris Schmelke, took the picture and gave a thumbs up. I thanked Jared and walked away. It was so short, but oddly engaging. I was truly surprised by how much the photo op added to the overall experience.
A few things about meeting Jared Padalecki for roughly 15 seconds
He really was as nice as the internet says. I obviously can’t speak to everyone’s photo experience, but I can talk about my own. He looked me in the eye and talked to me instead of at me. He is better looking in person, and it’s not like he looks bad on TV. He is larger than you expect. And you are probably expecting to meet someone who is huge.
Thanks to our rather massive height difference he leaned down to talk to me, casting him partly in shadow, like film noir. This only added to the utterly surreal feeling of the interaction. When I say height difference, I mean well over a foot. Granted, I am short. But I was wearing 4” heels. That 6’4” description – I call BS. I have friends that are 6’4” and they don’t dwarf me in quite the same way. Although they are also less broad than the average barn, so that might play into my perception a bit.
It was lovely, I left the room doing that smiley happy thing I watched everyone else do, and that was that for photo ops.
So I thought.
That Splurge Fund I Talked About Earlier
After the J2 panel and some fan videos we had a break. There were some meet and greets, autographs, and some photo ops scheduled for this time. I didn’t have anything scheduled, and neither did my con bestie Stephanie. At this point, I hadn’t eaten in around eleven hours so needed to grab something. Stephanie suggested we take the short walk up to Union Station and grab something there. We chatted the entire walk and then we were maybe 2/3 of the way there when this happened:
Me: You know leaving the building is preventing me from spending $260 on a Jenson and Jared op.
Stephanie: Me too! Spend $10 now, save $250.
[stop dead in our tracks, we look at each other]
Me: Unless, you know, we split an op, then it would only be like $130.
Stephanie: Do you want to do that?
Me: I’m in if you’re in. Make the call.
Stephanie: Don’t make me make the call. I’ll say get the photo.
Me: Okay, so we do it?
Damn you, Fan Math.
We turned on the spot and hightailed it back to the con. (Note, we still haven’t eaten.) We bought our J2 op about fifteen minutes before it was time to line up for it. We then spent the rest of the time trying to figure out how to stand. At one point Misha Collins walked through our line when he finished one of his photo ops. So, you know, just another Sunday filled with celebrity encounters.
Eventually we decided to steal whatever pose we liked the best from the people who went before us. We ended up in another classic pose: the hugs from behind. Stephanie stood in front of Jenson and I stood in front of Jared.
Again, the photo ops went by incredibly quickly. I think this one did take the full 15 seconds just because we had to get four people into position. I honestly don’t remember who explained the pose. We might even have said “what they just did.” I remember that Jared said, “I still love the shirt!” Still? Uh…. that implies that he actually remembered it from earlier in the day – if that’s the case, then, kudos, Padalecki. I was not expecting that level of remembering individual fans, no matter how awesome their selection of novelty tee shirt.
Jared pulled me into a very tight hug, significantly tighter than I was expecting. No complaints about that, just honest to goodness surprise. Jensen wrapped his arms around Stephanie or smushed into her, everyone smiled, and Stephanie and I headed out of the room giggling like everyone who went before us. Then the most marvelous thing happened. A volunteer told us to get back in line because one of us blinked in the photo. Woo-hoo! We screwed up so we got to do this again! I mean, sorry, for the inconvenience everyone.
We were sent over to jump right back in, I think I said something along the lines of “Apparently one of us screwed up and blinked.” To which Jared replied… I don’t know what he said. It’s loud in there and his head is literally a foot above me. I saw his mouth move. I’m sure he was polite. We have our second experience with, again, surprisingly tight hugs. The photo is snapped, Chris gives us the thumbs up (Darn it! I mean, Yay! We got it this time!) and we leave. While I did not get to hug Jensen, I did thank him and make eye contact. This will shock no one, but he has an intense gaze. Even though I felt a little bit like I had accidentally challenged the alpha dog, I did not break eye contact. I probably came off as creepy. But seriously? He might be able to set things on fire with that heat vision.
Afterwards Stephanie and I talked about the op, because how often do you have this as a topic of conversation? Of course you’re going to talk about it. She was also surprised by how much that interaction really brought to the con experience. Neither one of us planned on getting a duo op, but that might be the highlight of the con for me. Keep in mind Stephanie and I met for the first time ever on Friday afternoon, and now we’re splitting ops together. Sharing the duo op was a lot of fun and it is slightly cheaper to split the duo than to have a photo with Jared or Jensen by yourself. Creation will give you one copy of the photo. You can buy the jpeg of any of your photos as well and those will be emailed to you after the con.
If you or one of the actors manage to screw up your photo (I did hear someone comment that she got a photo taken a second time because Jared’s eyes were closed) you still get to keep the bad photo. Our bad photo was bad enough to be hilarious, so we kept it. My eyes are fully closed and I clearly was startled by Jared pulling me in and I’m almost falling into him. Additionally, and chances are Creation wouldn’t ever retake a photo for this, but Jensen’s original hug looks more like a chokehold. If I black out Stephanie’s eyes and digitally add in my Abaddon neck wound, I think we could convince people that for our op, we asked to be “murdered by the Winchesters.”
In summary, yes, the ops are pricey. And they are rushed, but no one is rude. Everyone was warm, friendly, and this is key – very much present in the moment. The cynic in me says, “They’re actors, emoting is their job. Not just metaphorically – it’s the definition of their job.” And yes, they are being paid to be there. But the naïve fangirl in me acknowledges that if they weren’t enjoying this as much as they all say they are, they wouldn’t go to 16 North American cons a year. They might force themselves through a few, but that they average more than one a month says something.
Post Con Blues
Between the adrenaline/caffeine crash, lack of food, too little water, and possibly too much alcohol depending on the types of parties you attend, there is such a thing as the post-con hangover. There’s also Con Crud – that sort of general ickiness that people come down with after socializing for several days. I didn’t get sick. I have small children and am exposed to all sorts of kid germs. My immune system is fairly bolstered. Unfortunately, I did have a headache from Sunday morning until Monday night. Again, had I taken the advice about food and water I probably could’ve avoided that.
The letdown makes sense. Going to a con is about more than the three days – it’s planning out your photo ops, cosplays, talking about it with friends either face to face or online, meeting your new internet friends in person, and if it’s not your first con you probably are going to meet up with friends that you only get to see at these things. If nothing else, you go in knowing that for three nerdy days you’re going to get to hang out with people who enjoy the same stuff you do. Chances are you put a fair amount of time and energy into this weekend, and it is a bummer to no longer have it on the horizon.
Unless, like me, you’re already planning for next year.
So by all means, if you can pull it off, go to a con. Make some new friends, try out a cosplay, or have a funny photo. It really was the judgment free zone (not counting that hater-mom) I was promised it would be. Who knew? That SPNFamily thing, it’s actually real.
So, who is this crazy broad ranting and raving about DCcon?
I’m a longtime fan of Supernatural who loves to analyze the plot and dialogue of each episode. I love trying to figure out where the show is going. I love the members of Team Free Will, but I think it will all come down to destiny. I ship nothing in the show, but I will read almost anything.
My real life includes two kids, a husband, a house in the suburbs, a great job I really like, and an extended family that lives two states away and proves that “family don’t end with blood.” I bake from scratch. I never outgrew playing dress up and I love costume and theme parties. Clearly, a con was a good option for me.
[Stay tuned for more from DCCon, including interviews with Chad Lindberg and Tahmoh Penikett!]
68 thoughts on “A Newbie Goes to Con”
Thank you so much for writing this up! I find myself in a similar boat, having impulsively bought a ticket for the Denver Con this November. I’m currently alternating between being excited and wondering what am I doing?! Thanks for all the practical advice; I will start a list and put granola bars and a water bottle (and aspirin) at the top.
Thank you for the kind words! Yes! Water and food! It sounds so simple, but you get so busy talking to new people and then it’s time for something else… As Charlie would say, “Bring snacks.”
Thanks for this! I’m already saving money from my paychecks for a trip to VanCon2016 so the budgeting this is correct. I can’t imagine plunking down all that cash on plane tickets, hotel, and con tickets w/o planning it all out first. My heart just couldn’t take it. Because it’s so far away, I’m planning to stay for a week and see all that I can while I’m in Vancouver. I don’t expect to get the experience ever again so why not make the most of it, right?
The “Sorry, not for sale” caption under Jensen’s pic cracked me up. That was funny!!! 😀
Thanks again for sharing!!!! 🙂
Thank you so much! I wish I could take credit for the photos and captions, but that’s all Lynn!
I hope to make it to VanCan one day – I’d love to see the behind the scenes stuff that’s available there. Please write in about it!
Excellent report! I’m not a newbie, having been to a couple of Dallascons, but I’ll be cosplaying and getting a photo with Jared for the first time in March, and I love hearing people’s positive photo op experiences. And my friend and I have some killer cosplay planned ….
Thank you! You’ll love the photo op… and I do encourage very high heels.
Reblogged this on Ana Fraser Lallybroch Blog.
My first con ever is coming right up, too – Minncon! I’m really starting to wonder what’s in store, so thank you very much for sharing your experiences! That’s fantastic that you really did make friends like that!
Thank you! I’ve been joking around with some of my college friends that apparently this is how you make new friends as a grown up.
Thank you so much Lynn for featuring Brigid’s newbie report. Your books and con reports finally convinced me to head to VanCon at the end of the month. (Less than a month away! Holy crap!!) Brigid, I really appreciate the honest, candid descriptions of both the practical and all the feels. I may have to print a hard copy and highlite it to keep with my packing list. Lynn, see you there! Smooches,
Thank you so much!
And please take water – learn from the errors of my ways. 🙂
What a great read. I already had my newbie experience last spring for SeaCon, but this almost made me feel like I was back there again. It was my first convention of any kind as well, and I knew it was going to be overwhelming enough without any extras at all. So I just had my GA ticket and that’s it, and it was still a rather perfect weekend. I’m excited about upgrading for future cons though. And there will be many.
Thank you! The cons really are what you make of them. And yes, upgrading becomes very tempting…
OMG….my friends and who sitting in front of you made it into your blog! How cool is that!? We can’t believe people actually noticed us but we must have looked like we were having a good time because a couple of people commented about it to us, LOL! I FEEL like I’ve known them all my life. Wonderful ladies all! I don’t usually read blogs too much, (usually devote what little reading time I have to fan fiction) but once I heard we got a mention, I had to read the whole thing and loved it. You really nailed the experience! Already looking forward to next year!
Thank you! I hope to see you next year, too!
SO glad someone wrote this a month before I go to my first SPN con! VanCon is also my 25th wedding anniversary celebration. Coming from Florida all the way to Vancouver to see and hug Team Free Will. Been saving for over a year and I have NO idea what to expect. I hear all kinds of conflicting things except for “There’s nothing else like it” and “You’re going to want to go again.” Curious how your husband did with everything? My husband is coming too. He watches the show, LOVES Ruth Connell but is not involved in the fandom AT ALL. Worried he won’t enjoy it.
Glad to write it!
I’ll give the short version of this answer, because it gets a little complicated. I alluded to the planning falling apart a bit. Well, about two weeks before DCcon, due to a circumstances beyond everyone’s control, our childcare for the weekend fell through. After a last minute scramble his parents were able to watch the kids for part of the weekend. As a result, my husband was able to attend about a third of con – from the tail end of karaoke through us bumping into Osric Chau at check out.
To an extent, I ended up with the best of both worlds – I had two days there on my own and one day with my husband.
Like your husband, he’s a big fan, but he isn’t involved in the fandom outside of conversations with friends. That said, he had a great time on Saturday – he got to see his favorites (Misha Collins and Mark Sheppard) and he made a great Crowley if I do so say myself. He was also in that incredibly fast Rob Benedict photo op. If your husband’s a fan of the show I guarantee you there will be people having conversations about plot points, themes, etc. somewhere – you can seek out those conversations at the bars/restaurants. I really think you’ll both have a blast!
Fantastic article! The practical advice was well thought out and articulated and you really captured the moments vividly and entertaining…ly. I hope to see more of your stuff here as you stretch your fandom/con going legs!
Thanks for the article~ My first con is coming up later this month (VanCon) and I really have no idea what to expect. I’ll be going alone too so that makes it even more nerve wrecking. Hope my experience will be as good as yours! Thanks again! 🙂
Thanks! It seemed that at least at DCcon a lot of people went on their own. Conveniently, most people will be wearing something SPN related, so you should be able identify each other easily.
I survived my first con! A bit dehydrated and exhausted but I had a great time!
So glad to hear that! Welcome to the club. 🙂
I loved the guest post from a newbie perspective!! So much fun!
Thanks! It was fun to write it up. At my next con I’ll even take my own advice.
I’m going for the first time in August to the Vancouver convention. I could only go on Saturday but I most wanted to see Misha and Mark anyway, though I like J and J of course. Got photo ops and autographs. I fell prey to the lure and impulsively bought a ticket for Misha’s boat cruise on Friday night. Thanks for your info, but I’m commuting and can only go to the two things so my experience may be a bit different. I loved the detail with which you wrote. My husband is going Saturday too. Did yours enjoy himself? Will we get to see your photo op photos?
I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time – your husband, too. My husband was only able attend on Saturday, but he had a great time. For the time being I am opting to not share my photo ops. But I’m very happy with how they turned out! (With the exception of the one where it looks like Jared is murdering me. That one’s not so great.)
You know off course THAT is the one everyone wants to see! You could always post them with your faces blurred or covered… just a thought!
Nice job on the con reporting! Plus I always love your comments on Lynn’s blogs each week. I found myself nodding and laughing all through your report. I too am a planner, I planned my Denver Con last Nov, a year in advance. I have decided to go to the Vancouver Con as well, since I was already going to be in Vancouver. So your ideas and tips were very helpful. I hope to meet lots of likeminded fans and enjoy some adult beverages, I already have the Tylenol packed!
Thank you so much! I’m sure you’ll have a great time at both cons. I hope to make a VanCon one of these years. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to the next season and getting to discuss episodes here.
I am doing the site location tour at VanCon, so I will let you know how it goes. I think it will be fun to get a peek behind the curtain so to speak.
Oh this is so awesome! I’m really interested in attending NJ con…one of these years, haha, and it’s great to get a newbie’s (and fellow planners!) perspective. So glad you had such a great experience (apart from the one grump. Must have been a leviathan. 😉 ) Great post!
Thank you so much! I’m not sure what to make of that one woman, but I’m glad that if she was going to try to pull that sort of behavior she did it with me and not someone who would have gotten upset by it. Hopefully she didn’t try to bring down anyone else.
I honestly couldn’t think what would go on during a con, and this is convincing me to try to save up for one.
I had same view before I started reading some of the con reports. I had figured it was a cross between actors sitting around signing autographs and the convention scenes in the show. Turns out it’s a themed weekend away. It’s not cheap, but you do get more than you are probably expecting.
Get article, even though I have been to two cons it gave me some ideas for next time. Unfortunately Houston did not go well for me (Philadelphia airport closing for two days didn’t help) and I thought I had enough of cons but after reading this it makes me want to give it another go. Maybe DC- since I will not have to rely on an airline to go.
I’m sorry to hear your cons didn’t go as well. Obviously I can’t compare experiences since this was my first con, and I don’t know how similar they are overall. But if you do go again I hope you have as much fun as I did!
Thanks for posting this! We are going to VanCon in a couple of weeks, and while I’ve attended smaller sci-fi conventions, they have never been for one show and have focused on writers rather than stars. (I’m really nervous about the autographs and photo ops!) Your article was both entertaining and gave us an idea of what to expect and how to prepare (stock up on protein and water bottles, got it!).
I cannot stress the water enough! I think next time I’ll spring for some autographs, too. As for the photo ops everyone was very kind and it really had a fun atmosphere to it. I know it’s easy to say ‘don’t be nervous’ – but I got nervous, too. Trust me, the actors are used to it. They’ve probably seen it all at this point.
This is so great! Thanks for explaining your experience. I am going to my first con in Minneapolis in a week and a half, and I am freaking out! I have a J2 op all to myself, and I’m worried I won’t be able to speak or anything else.
The good news about the op being so short is that there really isn’t a ton of time to say more than “I’d like this pose” and “Thank you.” Freezing up seemed to be a pretty common reaction – partly from nerves, and partly just because it is such an unusual situation you probably don’t have a past experience to base it on. If you want to do a really specific pose you can bring in a picture. I’ve seen a few people post pictures online with their ops and inspiration images side by side. I’m sure you’ll do great and love every second of it. 🙂
Can you post your photo ops? I would love to see them.
For as outgoing as I am, I tend to keep a lot of stuff private. I haven’t even posted my photos to my own Facebook page! I might share them at some point, but for now I’m keeping them to myself. Thanks, though!
for a first-time con-goer, you are a CHAMP!!! you get a gold star to add to your fabulous photo-ops and awesome memories!!!
i am going to send this to my daughter and her chaperone, who are attending the denver con in november, both of whom are first time spn con-goers (although both experienced con-goers), so they have an insider’s view on how the spn cons work. i am sure they will appreciate how the spn cons work, since they are pretty different than the huge cons. my daughter (who is 15) has worked her butt off all summer to pay her own way, and her chaperone has spent all summer watching the show and getting into the fandom just to chaperone her. so many feels there. thanks for the extremely excellent blog post.
This is such great insight how does it work at the con. I’m from Central Europe and I’m the only one fan of Supernatural in my neighborhood, so I do not expect that something like this I could attend. There is many reasons which begin with the availability, the language barrier and end with too much expensive for me. So read about your reminiscences and experiences is for me something amazing. I feel like I was there I myself. So thank you very much.
Thank you so much for the kind words!
I had a great time reading this article! I wish I had read it last year before my first con. But while I was there I discovered what I wanted to do for this year budgeted and booked my tickets and photo ops and I’m ready to go to Pasadena in November. Definitely the most important thing is snacks and water!!
Thank you so much! Have a wonderful time in Pasadena!
Nice job! Loved the tips, but the humor and insight make the article great. DenCon in Nov. will be my first ever….after plunging headlong into the SPN pool less than a year ago. It is so encouraging and validating to continually hear about the authenticity, sincerity and humility from the people we all adore. And, now I’m REALLY glad I chose to get a room rather than commute (even if just for Fri and Sat nights)! Thanks again!
Thank you so much! I really was blown away by the kindness, creativity, and overall joyfulness of my fellow fans. The actors were very much in the moment, and from the limited in interactions I had with them I did feel like they were appreciative of the SPN Family and thoroughly enjoying the ride. Have fun at DenCon!
I’m thinking you should be in line for a commission from Creative for such a great ad for their Cons! 🙂
I’d like to add my thanks for this. I keep nervously poking at the idea of saving up for a con, and this was really helpful. I agree with Ginger, they should be paying you, you make it sound possible and fun.
So glad I happened on this! My first con ever will SPNCon Pasadena in November. Taking my 15 yr old daughter, but unlike the mom in your article, I was a fan first and it was my idea. Will take your advice seriously! Especially because my gymnast/athlete girl eats like 4 meals and three snacks a day and gets really cranky when she’s hungry!
Thank you! At least in DC people frequently were eating in their seats during the panels. You should be able to eat and still see everything. Have fun!
Great article, thanks for writing and posting this! DC Con was my first SPN con too. I’ve been to other types of conventions (mostly doll collector but I did go to a couple comic book conventions years ago) but this one was truly a unique experience. I was lucky in that I was able to head to the con directly from work and I was able to leave my car there over the weekend. I didn’t have much planned out besides that tho and was kicking myself for not having brought proper supplies (like water and snacks). I’m very much an introvert so it was wonderful being able to actually talk to others in line that were newbies and veteran con-goers alike. I don’t have any friends to share my fannishness with in the real world so it was amazing to be able bond with other fans.
My photo ops past in a blur and I still look at the photos and find it hard to believe it really happened. I still squeal mentally about accidentally touching Jensen’s belly during that one.
I did go for the upgrade for next year’s DC Con. Its at a hotel I’ve been to for a doll convention and its only 20 miles from where I live. There are a few more amenities near the new hotel and I’m hoping to be a little calmer next year.
I’m a photographer in the real world and took way too many pictures during all of the panels which I then had to edit down to a reasonable amount (actually, its still an astronomical amount of photos for three days) and find myself at a loss to find a place to share them. This is an experimental posting of one of my albums:
and that link isn’t working at all, how about this one:
Just spent a considerable amount of time perusing your photos…very nicely done. The number of expressions from those two “boys” could make such a great collage! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for the kind words. Your photos are amazing – thank you for sharing them! I hope you share photos next year, too!
You are a fabulous writer Brigid! I laughed throughout this very informative post. I’m so grateful to you and everyone who writes about the conventions because I may never be able to go to one. I’m a new SPN fan, having just begun watching (at the beginning, episode 1) at the end of May, at my 14 year old daughter’s insistence. Now I’ve watched every episode at least twice, watch convention videos on YouTube, enjoy all the behind the scenes stuff I can find (I just found the first SPN panel ever on the third disk of the the Season 1 Blu-Ray set!) and I can’t wait for Season 11. 😀
If you click on my name to go to my blog and scroll back several posts, you can see a map I made of Sam and Dean’s travels over all 10 seasons so far.
Thank you so much! Truly, thank you.
I love your map! I just happen to know the towns for Phantom Traveler – it took place in places I’ve been, so it stuck with me. 🙂 Phantom Traveler is set in Pennsylvania – Lehigh Valley Airport and Nazareth. Oddly enough, in the show it looked more Canadian… 😉
so glad you like them! Its great to be able to share!
Thank you for posting this. For my own con experience, VanCon, I took the food part to heart. I brought fruits and a pack of brownies I bought at nearby 7eleven. And I ate that while waiting. And the question part, I experience it first hand. Because I tried to ask every talents a question. I wrote down 3 questions to ask to each talent and a volunteer screened the question and told me which question I should ask. And the post con aka con crud, at the ending of VanCon, I was still fine, but now…another different story. Maybe if it’s possible, I’ll try for Vegas 2019. I got to start saving if I want to go.
I’m glad you were able to stock up on food – I’m sure it makes a huge difference. I hope to go to VanCon someday, I’m going to be saving up for that one – especially since that one will require more extensive travel. Hopefully we can cross paths at a con someday.
So I’m jist laying here being gitty about going to my first SPNcon (which is December by the way) and I jist search up “Spncon experience” and it brought me here. I’m so nervous! And I’ll be meeting Jensen too. Oh god… My nerves!! But thank you for giving me an idea about how the Convention will be like. And sadly I only have GA tickets for Sunday… What should I expect to happen on Sunday. I know I won’t get to go to the Gold Panel… Ugh.. But will Jensen and Jared being in another panel that day?? Or just the Gold Panel (it says on the website they will be in morning panel ): ) so many questions that need to be answered! 😱😭
Welcome! So glad you’re going to a con – and yes, Jared and Jensen do their main panel on Sunday afternoon and everyone gets to go. It’s an hour of fun and laughter and inspiration, so be ready for a great experience 🙂