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Pros and Cons

27 July 2010 3 Comments by

Welcome to my first post as a guest writer here at The Convention Fans Blog!

I am known to some as @nerdsherpa, and I figured to introduce myself, I would go over a bit of my con-going resume.

Somewhere around ten years ago, a friend of mine took me to my first convention. It was a weird, stuffy, cramped little deal in the basement of Madison Square Garden, or some other NYC creep-hole. The headliners were Rutger Hauer, Billy Dee Williams, Adam West, and a couple of other celebrities. It’s been forever since it happened, but I remember that I had a pretty great time, almost bought a Bat’leth and felt bad for the Playboy Playmates who had booth space, but seemed sad and alone because no convention geeks dared to talk to them. Also, I think it might have been the first time I met Peter David.

Not too long after that, I went to the Big Apple Anime Festival, I think it was called. I didn’t have as much fun, because at the time, I guess I wasn’t interested enough in anime. But I do remember seeing someone in a pretty epic Bowser costume. Also, I seem to recall it happened in like July or August of 2003 and it was around a billion degrees in New York. It was the same summer as that crazy blackout that left NYC dark for a weekend.

For the last few years, I’ve been going to New York Comic Con and New York Anime Festival, both operated by ReedPop, and in 2009 I decided to do NYCC with a couple of my friends on VIP tickets. I strongly recommend that if your con of choice has some sort of VIP option and you can somehow afford it, you should try it at least once. Avoiding lines and having a private lounge is a pretty great deal.

In September of 2009, everything changed. Last summer my entire industry collapsed, and with it went my job and income. I desperately wanted to attend New York Anime Festival, but I had no financial resources to spend even on a $55 ticket. So I reached out to the organizers, using the email I got when I bought the NYCC tickets earlier that year, and I asked about volunteer opportunities. They were able to squeeze me onto their volunteer roster at the last minute, and conventions would never be the same for me again. Sure, I’ll still be a Con at some shows, but I’ve found that being a Pro is a lot more fun for me.

Since then, I was a Con at Farpoint in Maryland (where I met our intrepid Convention Fans Editor-in-Chief), and I was a Pro at PAX East and Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (aka C2E2). In the coming weeks, I’ll be a Con at Otakon in Baltimore, and a Pro at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando.

My plan is to cover both of the upcoming shows for this site and hopefully take some photos of cosplay. Forgive me if all I seem to get are pictures of Vocaloid cosplayers and Slave Leias.

I can’t wait to share some of my behind-the-scenes type volunteer experiences, and give our readers a whole new angle on conventions. Who knows, maybe you’ll find you’d rather be a Pro too, even though we don’t get paid. If you want to try volunteering at your local convention, check out their website. There will be information about volunteering in there somewhere.


  • Nanci said:

    What will you be doing at CV? I’m attending as a fan and I can’t wait!

  • nerdsherpa (author) said:

    One of the interesting things about Volunteering is that you can never be completely sure what sort of thing you’ll be assigned to do. So, right now I have no clue what I’ll be doing in Orlando. I just know in advance that it will be reasonably awesome.

  • Kristyn Souder said:

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for writing this piece! Fandom conventions such as the ones you listed above (especially ones like Otakon which are completely volunteer-run), survive on folks like yourself who enjoy their con experience and are willing to “step it up a notch” by getting involved in a more direct way. Without volunteers who are willing to take some time to help out and give other fans a great experience, many events just wouldn’t exist. (I should know; I’m involved with a convention that is actively recruiting more staff and volunteers so that it can continue its growth. ;))

    Besides the emotional reward of making a contribution to the fandom, there are often other perks associated with volunteering including a T-shirt, free admission, food, and/or crash space, depending on the event.

    I hope your documentation of your experience will encourage lots of other folks to look into what can be a rewarding experience :)

    (Volunteer) Head of Communications, Zenkaikon V