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Madicon 20 Convention Report: Harden the Con Up!

30 March 2011 by

Madicon has been running for 20 years. It has slowly grown as a student run convention run by the SFFG (Sci-Fiction Fantasy Guild) of James Madison University.

The staff was very friendly; always willing to help anyone out with any problems. Of course sometimes it was hard to tell who was staff and who was former staff just willing to help out, which is a good thing in my opinion.

The con was held at Festival Conference & Student Center of James Madison University. This means the layout had to be different from being in a hotel or convention center. Some of the rooms were far apart and a little hard to find. They were not too hard to locate, just far apart through the open center. The con was located in the same building as the lunch center, which was open on Saturday, giving con goers a closer location to get food then driving somewhere.

The primary center of the con was the main hall where the vendors and art show was set up. The vendors carried a range of products. There were used books, comics (cheap ones which I spent a lot of energy going through), anime, t-shirts, toys, various original art, and gaming supplies.

There were also a few artists set up, including web comic creators Studio Unseen and a group making a local indie film. The art show and art auction brought in some pretty interesting stuff, and everyone could find at least one thing they wanted.

They had a few author guests who were very approachable and happy to talk about their work. You could catch them in several panels taking questions, in the con suite just hanging out, or even trying to sell a book or two in the main hall. Former Madicon con chair and White Wolf employee Brian Glass was at the con talking about his days with the con and working at White Wolf.

The musical guests they had were all a bit different from each other, giving some selection. There was Johan Knight who plays ‘paranormal folk music’ (which is basically songs about ghosts and creepy stuff performed to a kind of laid back coffee house kind of mood). There was Inverse Phase, who does chip music and gave video game inspired music of cover songs and originals. Rob Balder did a number of humorous songs of his own and his FuMP friends. While each was different, all of them were friendly with their audiences, explained their work, and pretty much had fun with them.

On Friday night there was a Geek Auction, where they auctioned off people to raise money for the Wildlife Center of Virginia. It was basically a geeky white slave market. The idea behind buying people was to get yourself a date for the rave that they had that night. I was able to buy a Harley Quinn costumer and a cat boy. I’m not sure why I got him either. I just made them carry my stuff around for a little while as I got pictures of the con. The Rave itself was a small affair, but with lots of excitement. They hung up a sheet to project videos on to while people dance with plenty of glow sticks.

Saturday morning started with the medieval recreation group COMARR doing some demos and fights. They were interesting group, very SCA like with their costumes and weapons. There was also a girl playing the cello while the fought; interesting battle music. Later that day was the costume contest. They had twelve female entries and no males. There was Harley Queen, several Japanese fashion ones, Jarod from Labyrinth, female Lugi and Link, and more. The two winners were Pyramid Head from Silent Hill in second and Nurse Joy in first place (she won the title of Nerd Queen by vendor The Brick Method).

Sunday was mostly about the Charity Auction in the main hall. There was old stuff the con staff pulled out of their own closets, stuff from the guests, sponsors (like White Wolf), and other sources. There was some hard bidding going on between everyone for some of the lots. I wasn’t able to win any of those, but I liked what I won.

The con ran panels from all the guests, a few attendees, staff, and myself on topics about writing, music making (even a chip music workshop where you got free software), readings, gaming, webcomics, and other topics. One of the rooms used was a board room which actually worked out very well for the panels in there, gave them a different feel to the usual way panel rooms are set up.

There were board, card, and RPGs throughout the con area. With several areas to play people took advantage of it. You could always see some people setting up a game to play, scheduled or not. Big games of Arkham Horror with all the expansions, D&D sessions, Magic the Gathering and Heroclix Tournaments, Catan, and even domino players. On Saturday there were Warhammer tournaments going on with several really nice terrain to play on.

The con had a video and computer gaming room running a number of games. There were a few stations to play at with several different games. Though I didn’t spend a lot of in there, I did get to play a puzzle game that was on one of the PS3s. I t was nice to see games other than the same old ones.

The con had a few LARPs too. On both Friday and Saturday PST productions ran Chtullu LARPs. They had some really good set ups. The Friday night LARP took place on a cruise liner and so they moved around tables to form borders for rooms of the ship. On Saturday was a prom so they had a snack table and DJ set up.  They also had a Camerilla Vampire LARP on Saturday night too.

The con suite had plenty of snacks throughout the con. Mostly chips and cookies, but they also had some meat and cheese platters. The room was run by the 501st. They had a set up showing off helmets, pictures, and other items. They also ran Star Wars fan films throughout the weekend. With the comfortable chairs and couches in the room, you could easily set back, eat a snack, and watch a little video.

Madicon is one of those small and close knit cons.  There were plenty of activities to keep you busy, but still with time to just sit back and hang out with friends new and old. 

I’m looking forward to next year to see what they come up with.  They have already got the dates set for next year, March 9-11.  http://madicon.org/

Check out my photos at: http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v498/TheHistoryFollower/Madicon/

Also of interesting note, on the way home before I got out of town I ran in to some girl scouts selling cookies.  That makes two for two on getting girl scout cookies this year.

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