Are Awesome Con events more con than awesome?

I’ve watched a few Big Bang Theory programs and heard enough about these sci-fi/comics/celebrity conventions to be intrigued. When I saw that Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., was featuring some characters from one of my daughter’s favorite programs this year, I decided to take her to check out what this was about.

But while some parts were interesting and worthwhile, the event turned out to be more con than awesome.

The tone was set during the initial purchase of tickets. I expected to pay more than the internet price of $35 and did at $40. But then, they tack on a $6 per-ticket “convenience fee,” even though the buying process is not done online but in person.

I asked the attendant, who I guessed was a volunteer, why there was a “convenience fee” when the purchase was made in person, not online. She shrugged and deflected the question, eventually saying she remembered when the admission process was only $5

“We’re being gouged,” I said. It would not be my first such statement at this event.

As we walked via a line into the exhibition hall, at no time did anyone offer us a written program with a schedule of panels and other events. That would have been helpful. I tried to locate one and was told they ran out. The place had only been open an hour. Talk about poor planning.

If I would have had a program, I would have seen that there was a panel with Dr. Who characters Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman that afternoon that my daughter would have enjoyed since she is a fan of the show. But we didn’t know about it since they had run out of programs within an hour. Yes, I could have tried looking through my phone’s internet, but I had used most of my monthly data.

Paying $100 to get Capaldi to sign something or take a photo was out of my budget. I happen to be a single dad who has more pressing bills to pay. Adam West, or Batman, wanted $80, while his sidekick Burt Ward, or Robin, sought $60. This was on top of the $46 per ticket attendees paid at the door, or $40 if you paid online with the extra fees.

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Grey DeLisle was cool at DC’s Awesome Con. But the cost was steep. [Shay photo]

We settled on getting a photo signed by Grey DeLisle, who performed characters in Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, Fairly Odd Parents, and other shows, at the better-value price of $25. That suited my daughter fine since she’s a fan of those shows, or at least at one time was. DeLisle turned out to be delightful, spending a lot of time with each person to speak with them. She wasn’t like some of the others just signing and going on to the next.

As my daughter and her friend toured some artwork, I asked a volunteer staffing an information booth about a sign that referred to Capaldi’s event being changed to a later time. I asked what that event was, and she referred to it as a photo op, not a panel discussion. It turned out to be the latter. By the time we were told it was a panel and tried to get in line, we were told there was no more room in the panel hall and had to leave.

We ended up going to a drier panel discussion on nanobots. It wasn’t what we sought so we exited early.

My daughter and her friend enjoyed the experience more than me — of course, that helps when you aren’t footing the bill. It was fun to see how dressed up attendees were. Many outfits were quite creative.

Most of the exhibit hall was full of vendors selling comic books, t-shirts, artwork, and various other items and services. It just seemed like a big commercial operation that was run by mostly volunteers who don’t have their stuff together. I’ve been to other conventions, such as sports ones, that are also commercial. But they don’t charge as much as this one to get in. If you are charging so much to supposedly meet the people that draw you to the event, you should be able to actually meet some without having to pay much more.

I’m by no means the only one complaining about such aspects. More than 100 people were turned away from the Capaldi panel. See

Like so much of our society, someone at the top of this operation is making a boatload of money at the expense of those closer to the bottom. These events seem to be popular among many, and that’s fine. We should just understand what we are getting into when we attend one.

Written for 45+ newspapers/mags. Written some books — see Visited 48 states, 30+ countries.

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