Shore Leave 31 Convention Report
This weekend, me and my intrepid photographer headed down to Baltimore to attend Shore Leave 31! Shore Leave is a well established science fiction convention that has a lot to offer fans. We bought some great items, laughed a lot, met cool new people, saw some old friends, and overall had a really enjoyable time. Below is a break down of the various aspects of the con, including what we liked, as well as some suggestions for improvement.
The con was held at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn. This hotel is a great choice for this con. It has ample parking, which is always a bonus for any hotel based convention. It was spacious without being cavernous or overwhelming. There were multiple options for food (it was a tad pricey, but that is to be expected and not the fault of the con). The con didn’t feel too big or too small for the venue, which is always difficult balance to achieve. Additionally, the hotel was very close to a major shopping plaza with a lot of restaurants and stores (including a Best Buy!), which is another major bonus for this location.
The Organization of the Con
The registration, main ballroom, celebrity guests, and some of the panel rooms were downstairs. During the majority of the con, this set up worked quite well. There was plenty of room to walk around and get where you needed to be without having to fight your way through narrow corridors or areas. However, when both the autographs were going on and the masquerade was preparing to start, that hallway was impossible to get through, especially for those who had scooters or wheelchairs. Spacing these events out in the future would be highly recommended.
The other recommendation we have is to have a lot more signage, especially when it comes to the registration table. Because registration wasn’t located near the hotel lobby, or even on the main floor of the hotel, it would have been difficult to find for new Shore Leave attendees. Additionally, there wasn’t a large clear sign indicating which table was the registration pick up area. There were three tables at the bottom of the escalator, and we had to ask around before finding the right one. A note to anyone planning an event needing signage: always put the signs above people’s heads. If you put them on the bottom, they will be blocked by anyone standing at the table.
The vendor areas, which were upstairs, were nicely spaced out. You could navigate the rooms easily without feeling claustrophobic. This is something a lot of cons screw up, so it was nice to see that Shore Leave made the wise decision to leave decent sized aisles in their vendor areas.
The Con Events and Guests
Shore Leave did a great job of bringing in entertaining guests from multiple sci-fi series. For a medium sized con, these celebrities offered a nice “bang for your buck.” Bob Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager, Stargate: Atlantis) and Ethan Phillips (Star Trek: Voyager) were great choices in particular. Their Q&A/presentation panel was absolutely hysterical, and the highlight of the convention for us. They make a great comedy pair, and putting them together at one con was brilliant.
There were a lot of panels to attend at Shore Leave 31. The con was often running seven to nine events at a time during peak hours, which gave attendees a lot of choices in terms of having something to do. We ended up staying for the masquerade event, which was very entertaining. My only complaint is that it started at 8:15, instead of the scheduled time of 7:30.
We really did enjoy this convention. Although we have been spoiled by big conventions like Dragon*con over the years, it was nice to experience a con dedicated entirely to sci-fi, that didn’t have 40,000 people crushing through vendor rooms and sitting in autograph lines. Another thing I want to mention: this con has a very charitable atmosphere that I couldn’t help but admire and appreciate. There was a blood drive, a charity poker game, and some of the celebrities were also selling/auctioning items for various charities. I’ve learned over the years that con-goers are some of the most generous people I’ve had the pleasure to come across, and they certainly demonstrated that at Shore Leave 31.
If you have a chance to attend Shore Leave 32, I definitely recommend it, especially if the big cons aren’t quite your thing. It is one of the best medium sized cons I’ve had the opportunity to attend. (Check out all of our photos at the official Convention Fans flickr stream!)