Everfree Northwest, a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic convention in Seattle, July 5-7, was my first ever fandom-specific convention, and it was, hooves down, the best convention I’ve attended this year, and one of the best I’ve ever attended.
I know, I know. The A-kon report was supposed to be next, but I’m leaving for Kuronekocon in like an hour, just didn’t have the energy to sit down with the behemoth that will be the A-kon report, and don’t want to have three con reports backed up after Kuroneko, so here’s the Everfree report first!
Honestly, Everfree NW was the convention I’d been looking forward to the most this year (at this point, I think ponies have now conquered half my table, while Loki occupies the other half…), but I was pretty nervous about it because I didn’t know what to expect at all. I’d heard good things about its first year last year, but everyone’s mileage varies, and the year thus far on the con circuit had been mostly lackluster for me. And come on, I’m a cynic and a skeptic, so it really surprised me that Everfree turned out so amazing in terms of…basically everything. It shocked me. It’s still shocking to me.
This report is 5,406 words long.
Maybe it shouldn’t have shocked me as much as it did though. From the very beginning, my interactions with the convention were very positive.
I registered for the Vendor’s Hall back in January (there’s no separate Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley; everyone’s lumped together). It was a simple, stress-free process — not too surprising for a newer, smaller con, but it’s not a plus I take for granted. Shortly afterwards, Morgan Huber, the Vender’s Hall Manager, emailed me to have me fill out additional information, such as neighbour preferences. In March, she emailed again inquiring for information for the website, as well as for the vendor spotlight features they were running on Twitter and Facebook.
In April, she reminded vendors of adspace and contribution opportunities to the con program and coordinated table-splitting arrangements between vendors with and without tables. In May, she had hours, load-in, badge pick-up, and other information ready for us. In June, a vendor suggested the idea of a Vendor’s Hall scavenger hunt, and Morgan helped hash out the details and officialize it. A week before the convention, she had the finalized table assignments for us, gave us her phone number, and made it very clear how we could reach her prior to and at the convention.
Essentially, Morgan made a point to keep vendors updated on everything we’d need to or want to know about the convention every step of the way. It was really great! If she sent out wrong information, she updated us with corrections as soon as she knew. Her emails were frequent, but not annoyingly so, and her responses to questions and concerns were always prompt. It was also clear that she had good communication with the rest of the Everfree staff since the information she gathered from vendors was often passed to the social media guys for spotlights or to the website guys for updates. I needed to update the vendor description I’d submitted to the website at some point, and that was handled in a very timely manner.
I understand that it’s much easier for staff to be on the ball with stuff like this when the convention is small, but at the same time, there are still plenty of small conventions that skimp on such communication. There’s nothing like having the confidence that you can, at any time, get in touch with staff about an issue and they’ll 1) be reachable, 2) actually listen to you, and 3) respond quickly and professionally.
It should be the minimal expectation, but sadly this level of responsiveness and class is missing from a majority of conventions, regardless of size, so I really appreciated the initiative Morgan took.
Because the Thursday before the con was the 4th of July, the Seattle Airport Hilton Hotel and Conference Center wasn’t letting us do any setting up that day. We had the option of setting up Wednesday evening if we needed to, but otherwise, Friday setup hours were from 8am to 10am, after which the hall opened to the public. Two hours to set up is cutting it pretty close for me, but I figured it was likely that things would be slowish Friday morning, and I didn’t want to deal with an extra day of parking costs Wednesday just to set up, nor did I want to bug Jer, who was my ride to and from the con, about the extra day either.
We got to the hotel around 7:30am Friday. Parking was in the convention center half of the complex and we walked across a small street to get to the hotel. We asked a staff person where vendor check-in was, but while he spouted a lot of words…none of it was really what we asked for or what we needed to know. <_< This was okay though (you tried, dude!), because from where we entered the hotel, the only place to go was down this long narrow hallway that dumped out right in front of the Vendor’s Hall.
There were several other vendors sitting outside the doors, so it was clear that they weren’t letting us in to set up yet. The line for attendee badge pick-up was in the same area, partially blocking the line of tables in front of the Vendor’s Hall where various staff seemed to be parked. Vendor badge pick-up was via Morgan, so I texted to ask where she was. Morgan responded promptly with “in front of the Vendor’s Hall, person with bright pink ponytail and rainbow tutu.” Very helpful identifying features. ;) I had my badge in hand a minute later…along with my con program. Yay! Unfortunately, Jer, even as my official helper, still needed to wait until pre-reg/reg opened to get his badge, though he was supposed to be able to jump to the start of the line.
We found Tori, who’d been dropped off at the hotel at 6am, sitting against the opposite wall of the same hallway. Together we sat around contemplating how tired we all were while waiting for them to let us in the Vendor’s Hall. For once, I’d actually gotten an okay amount of sleep, but Tori and Jer both only got an hour or two, haha. >_>
There was some minor confusion when the Vendor’s Hall finally opened to let vendors in — at first, hotel staff told us we were only allowed to drop our stuff off. The lights in the room were off, and we weren’t really sure what the issue was. This confusion only lasted a few minutes though, and soon enough, the lights were on and con staff confirmed that yes, we were allowed to set up. They didn’t really check badges as we entered, so Jer got in without a problem. :> The tables weren’t labeled, unfortunately, but the con program included a map of the Vendor’s Hall. The gaps between tables weren’t exact to the map, but the number of tables per row, etc, was still accurate, so it was easy enough for everyone to figure out where they were supposed to be.
This actually worked out for me because on the map, I was sandwiched between Tori and OnnaNoko with no gaps between their tables and mine, while Tori and Onna each had a gap on their other side. In actuality, Onna and I still had no gap between our tables, but then there was a gap between Tori and me. This meant I could make better use of the side of my table that faced the gap, since prints displayed there would be more visible. The photo illustrates it best, I suppose!
Setup was kind of weird mostly because I wasn’t sure which of my non-pony things I wanted to display. Even though I’d busted out a lot of last-minute prints and postcards for the con, I still haven’t quite enough things to have a full table of pony goods. That’s why the right side of the table there looks a bit empty, but I did manage to fill it a little more after I took this picture. I had space for my prop lemons for the first time in what, a year?? …Though a lot of people still mistake them for oranges… D;
Setup also went faster than I thought it would, partially because Jer was around to help me put together the bookmark stand, but also because I didn’t build as high as I usually do. The room was smallish, so it seemed just fine at this height (~4′)? So I had just enough time to make a quick circuit around the room before we opened to the public. Since there was no separate Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley, there was an interesting mix of people in the Vendor’s Hall. Many vendors offered both licensed products (mint-in-package toys, calendars, lanyards, etc) and homemade items (plush, art, comics, jewelry), or a combination of (modified/customized official toys).
With 60 tables in the Vendor’s Hall, one of the things I was worried about going into the con was what that would mean for sales. I still can’t find official attendance numbers for Everfree, but from what I can gather, last year’s numbers were around 1,000-1,200 people, and this year was probably 1,800-2,000? 60 tables is a lot for a con that size, even with no separate AA and DR.
My worries were for naught though!
Aside from a small, early afternoon lull, the Vendor’s Hall was crowded from when we opened at 10am to when we closed at 6pm, and while I didn’t t really get any commissions all Friday, sales were surprisingly robust. :O I kept myself busy at the table by working on badge examples and an art trade with Jessica (whom I met at Comicpalooza!). I still don’t own a laminator myself, but Tori had brought hers along, so I’d be able to take commissions for the larger laminated badges typically popular at furry conventions. My normal badge commissions are limited to the 3″x4″ size since that’s the size I have plastic badge holders for. I also worked on a few more gijinka ACEOs:
Jer kept me supplied with coffee throughout the day. He did eventually go through registration for his badge, then found Morgan again to get the special sticker designating him as an official vendor helper. He also changed into his Angel cosplay (why don’t I have a picture of this??) for a while and went to a cool panel hosted by Amy Keating Rogers. In his downtime, he sat behind the table with me, but I didn’t really need his help for anything other than holding down the fort while I took bathroom breaks, so he just worked on re-lettering his recently finished webcomic to prep it for print, haha.
Intermittently, the Granny Smith at the Apple Family Booth near the entrance of the Vendor’s Hall would announce that it was cider season. I never went over there while it was cider season, but it was easy enough to gather that they were selling cider in limited batches throughout the day. This was really entertaining mostly because the Granny Smith did an amazing impression of Granny Smith’s voice, and was just an all around charming lady that never broke character the whole weekend. o_o She’d get attendees chanting ‘cider, cider, cider’ and warn people that Pinkie Pie was first in line, etc, and it was just…this nice little piece of the show that was always in the corner of the room. Really awesome!
There were a lot of cosplayers at Everfree, but I didn’t take photos most of the time because a majority of them didn’t really stand out to me? Since MLP cosplayers are so prevalent at other conventions, I feel like I’ve seen a fair few of the good ones at one con or another already, and since the Vendor’s Hall was crowded the entire day, it was never really a good time to take pictures either.
Staff stopped by pretty regularly to see if I needed anything and to offer water bottles. I don’t think I’ve been to another con this small that offered its vendors water bottles, so that was a nice surprise. Another nice surprise was the fact that we actually had power! For free! Since I was along the back wall, there were outlets every couple of feet. A few of the artists not against the wall reported having access to power strips, but I’m not sure if they were working 100% of the time. I actually had a huuuge industrial power strip right next to me, but I don’t think staff ever got it to work. I don’t think I’ve ever actually had power behind the table, and I didn’t actually need it for anything, but Tori was using an outlet to charge her phone, and Onna was definitely using hers to power her laminator.
The lights in the room went out a few times during the day. Sometimes they went out completely, and sometimes they just kind of dimmed. I’m not really sure if this was a power issue or if it was just people running into the light switch? I actually had one of the lighting switch panels behind my table (Jer had to be careful leaning backwards in his seat or he’d hit it), so every time the lights went out, I had the power (hehh) to turn them back on…at least for the middle section of the room. It was weird!
Two brony podcasts (maybe one was a vblog?) came by to interview me about my work, but while I let them take pictures and videotape footage of the table, I declined to talk at length about anything because hahahaha, I never know what to say about my work. <_< I like ponies! They are really fun to draw! This is the extent of it, lol. >_>
It’s cool seeing how connected and tight-knit the fandom is though. There were a lot of parents attending with their kids that came by and expressed their surprise at 1) how many adults there were in attendance, and 2) how awesome and friendly all of them were. I, on the other hand, was actually kind of surprised that there were so many younger kids and their parents around — from my perspective, it’s all us crazyass adults who have taken over the fandom, and it’s to the point where it’s like, oh hey, real kids actually still like this show! It isn’t just us? Hasbro did actually hit their target demographic too? XD That’s cool!
Jer relayed a tale of how he’d spoken to two “normies” from New York at the hotel bar who had no idea what was going on and who listened to him with fascination while he explained. Ah, conventions. :)
Marl, who was heading PK‘s table at Everfree while PK herself was at Anime Expo, came by to chat at some point, which was nice. Another vendor that was at Aki Con also came by to say hello and to confirm that I wasn’t going back. I like that this is a thing that has happened quite a few times since Aki. XD The camaraderie that came out of huddling together in that leaky garage has yet been forgotten!
The Vendor’s Hall closed down at 6pm after a nice, sane eight hours of being open to the public. Tori had been texting back and forth with Robin all day to confirm dinner plans, so after we packed up, the three of us — Jer, Tori, and I — headed over to West Seattle to meet Robin at Bang Bar, which sounds not like what it is, lol.
I didn’t realize how exhausted I was until we got in the car, but maaan. How is it that I manage to do cons that have twelve to fourteen hours of Artist Alley when I’m already so tired after eight? The good Thai food sent me straight into food coma mode too, but I’m really glad we got to meet up with Robin since I completely missed her at Sakura-Con.
After dinner, we swung by the International District on the way back to my apartment because I knew there was a FedEx Office there and Tori had sold out of the one print she had. :O
I was kind of sad that for once, I didn’t have on me the flash drive with all my print files. Because they’d done insanely well that day, I was really close to selling out of one half of a pair of matching prints, and it would have been nice to get a short run of new prints. It was probably just as well though, as the FedEx guy had to print out Tori’s print on three (or four?) different printers before he got one to print without streaking, and even then, the print quality was subpar when compared to the prints Tori had printed herself. And of course, FedEx is rather overpriced. ~_~
I meant to work on more badge examples once we got home, but my brain checked after I ran numbers for the day — Friday numbers were amazing; better than Friday at Sakura-Con!? How did that even happen?? — and I did nothing else useful the rest of the evening.
Despite getting to bed before midnight on Friday and not needing to be up until 8am Saturday, I didn’t sleep very well. (It was my new alarm ringtone‘s fault.) I still got up on time, but the day ended up starting slowly anyway as Jer was running late that morning.
Setup Saturday started at 9am, and we opened again at 10am. Jer dropped Tori and me off at the main entrance (actually, I’m not sure if it’s the “main” entrance since it definitely wasn’t the hotel lobby, but it was the entrance that led straight to the hallway outside of Vendor’s Hall, so) before going to park the car, and we got into the room literally five minutes before we opened, haha. It turned out fine though.
I didn’t have a lot I needed to straighten up at the table, especially since I’m phasing out bookmarks. (Bookmarks have always needed the most fixing up every morning because they’d get messed up throughout the day while people browsed, and they’d knocked over at night when I threw the cover sheet over them.)
Saturday was much busier in terms of commissions. I did some more badge examples first thing that morning and laminated them, so I guess the examples helped. I think part of it might have also been that Onna, who had been bombarded with badge commissions all Friday, was now telling people that there was a chance she wouldn’t be able to finish before the end of the weekend. :> Either way, I was happy to not have to find ways to keep myself busy.
I sold out of half the pair of prints that’d done well Friday and print sales kind of dived thereafter. There were long lulls between merch sales in the afternoon, and overall, sales slacked considerably from Friday. I think some of it was because since I had commissions to work on Saturday, my head was down more of the time, and I wasn’t able to talk to as many people stopping at the table. It’s this kind of situation when a helper is most useful because they can engage potential customers while I continued to work, but my table really isn’t set up for me to have a helper…namely, there is only one window to the front of the table, so even when Jer was sitting behind the table with me, he couldn’t see anything, haha. <_<
OH WELL. Jer still got to get me coffee, even though the barista was apparently gone for the weekend and it was the bartender making the coffees, and he was kind of bad at it! :C (Or at least, his macchiatos were really blah; the lattes were okay.)
I basically worked on commissions the whole eight hours Saturday, and almost all of them were badge commissions. It was a pretty satisfying work day, honestly! I like drawing pony OCs and ponysonas a lot, so it was a lot of fun. It is neat to see how much variety there is, even when everypony’s a pony.
It was pretty funny though — I had amazing cell reception the whole weekend while a lot of others had really poor reception! This has never happened before! Either it’s just me on T-mobile that has crappy service, or it’s everyone has crappy service. I’ve never had a con where T-mobile was the shining ray of signal while all other carriers were dead. This meant, though, that a lot of customers weren’t able to text me their references. They’d send a text and I wouldn’t ever get it because they can’t hold a signal long enough for the text to go through. So I ended up taking photos of other people’s phones a lot. I dunno, I just think that’s hilarious for some reason. XD
After we closed for the day, Jer, Tori, and I walked about a mile from the hotel to a teeny Chinese takeout place, haha. We didn’t realize it was so small until we got there, but the food was good and cheap, so it was all good. Everfree had given everyone a nice food guide with our con programs, but I guess we didn’t read it carefully enough. XD
I really liked the con program in general, though it was a little confusing the way they wove everything together. The program was fashioned like a newspaper, I guess since the Everfree mascot is a newspony, and they put in fan-contributed “news articles” and editorials and “letters to the editor” in with stuff like panel descriptions, con policies, and maps. It’s a cute final product though, and I liked that they included a five-day weather forecast.
Jer wanted to attend the dance party that night, so we walked back to the hotel after dinner. There were a lot of empty tables near the hotel restaurant and bar, so Tori and I settled there to work on commissions while Jer went off to dance. I had just two badges to finish up and they didn’t take me long, but while we were there working, a super flamboyant dude came over, asked what we were doing, and gushed over our art. Then the guy commissioned an ink sketch. XD
And…this led to two additional commissions! After I finished his sketch, the dude brought a friend over who commissioned a badge, and by then, the family sitting at the table next to us was really curious as to what was going on. They weren’t there for the convention, but the mother had been into My Little Pony in the 80’s and her eight-year (ish) old son really wanted a sketch. So he got one. He changed his mind a few times along the way, but this was the end result:
It was a darn good evening camped out by the hotel restaurant, I’d say! Jer didn’t end up wanting to stay at the dance thing very long, so we headed out not long after I finished Hot Dog Laser 2000.
On the ride home, Tori mentioned that she had overheard the family talking about the convention while I was jotting down notes for the other person’s badge commission. Apparently the son had wanted to check out the game rooms, but the mother told him, “No, I think this is a My Little Pony convention for adults.” The son’s retort: “That doesn’t even make sense!”
Sunday started up in a more timely manner than Saturday. I’d slept a lot less, but I’d slept a lot better, so I was feeling pretty good Sunday morning. I got up early enough to make coffee at home before leaving for the con, and at the con, I had the chance to make another walk around the room before we opened for the day. I only got to talk to a few other vendors in that time, but everyone seemed to be doing pretty well. By then, a lot of plush makers were sold out of plush, and a fair number of print artists had prints marked ‘sold out’ too, including Katie/Patchwerk. I had intended to buy some prints from her, but I should have gotten them Friday! XD Ah well! It was definitely nice to hear that everyone had been doing so well. :o
I kind of wished staff gave us a head’s up before opening the doors for the day though; I didn’t realize it was 10am until I saw obvious non-vendors milling around the room and had to rush back to my table when we opened. :O It wasn’t like this was a long distance, but still!
Sunday was a whirlwind of commissions. I did nearly as many commissions Sunday as I did Saturday, and we closed two hours early on Sunday. x_x
I didn’t make very many merch sales at all because I was grinding the whole day, and yup, it got to the point where I had to turn folks down for commissions too. And unlike Onna, I really hate taking take-home commissions! I want to finish everything at the con! And if I can’t do that, then please email me after. ;__; I think I was probably unintentionally short with a few people when I told I couldn’t take any more commissions, haha… but honestly, when it ticked past 2pm, it was to where I knew I didn’t have time to talk to even people if I was gonna finish everything in time. o__o
The afternoon was really rather stressful, hahaha. In my rush, I didn’t remember to take photos of most of my Sunday commissions. (So if any of you guys have photos, I’d appreciate them!)
I had one commissioner who needed to be bumped up in the queue because he was leaving earlier than he thought. Then I had another commissioner who was a staff member and who wouldn’t be able to come pick up her commission until after we closed, and even then, she wasn’t able to make it over before I’d finished packing up. I ended up giving that commission to a different staffer, who delivered it for me. A third, non-staff commissioner was unable to get back by my table before we closed at 4pm, but when he finally came back around, I had Jer meet him outside the Vendor’s Hall and deliver the commission.
But yeah! I did finish everyone’s commissions by 4pm, and everything got delivered to their rightful owners in the end. ALL COMMISSIONS DONE AND ACCOUNTED FOR. I am a rock star. ʘ‿ʘ
Everfree Northwest was fabulous.
The entire staff was great. Morgan, the Vendor’s Hall Manager, was really on the ball with everything, as I mentioned. She sat outside the Vendor’s Hall most of the weekend, as far as I could tell, so she was easy to find and reach. All of her underlings were very sweet and checked up on us regularly, offering help and water. They came by frequently enough that a few of them saw and recognized Tori and me hanging out by the restaurant Saturday evening and said ‘hello’ then too. The off-duty staffers, all still easily recognizable in their staff and security shirts, that came through the Vendor’s Hall to browse and to commission were all super nice as well.
The attendees were also great. The bronies I’ve met at other conventions have almost always been great, so having an entire show full of them just kind of multiplied that greatness by some crazy factor?? I had some of my pony trading cards on the table over the weekend asking for casual trades. Since I don’t really collect the cards, most of what I had to offer was common stuff, but I had a few folks just give me stuff I was looking for because they had extras or just felt like it. It was so nice. ;__; Everyone was really genuine, and I dunno…it was just really awesome talking to and hanging out with everypony. ; 3 ;
The final numbers for the weekend put Everfree just over Sakura-Con for me, which is nothing short of astonishing. In fact, Everfree NW was my fourth best convention in five years of doing conventions, beaten only by A-kon 23, A-kon 24, and Otakon 2012 — all cons more than ten times its size. This also means that it did beat A-kon 22 (still ten times its size!), San Japan 4, and a ton of other cons, almost all at least twice its size. o_o
I was worried about the size of the Vendor’s Hall, but in the end, I think it was probably just the right size. The room felt smallish with sixty tables in there, but it was never unbearably crowded. There was a good seven or eight feet of space between the wall tables and anything in front of them, there was a fair five to six feet between the aisles of the non-wall tables, and there was plenty of room behind all the tables. It was never so crowded that the body heat in the room was oppressive, though I did hear that they limited the number of people allowed in the room at any given time, which is a very good move.
There was variety enough in the hall that I think vendors of all types did equally well. My being next to two artists with more or less the same types of merchandise (prints, buttons, commissions) didn’t really hurt me. It just felt like a good, healthy marketplace. :o Following these reports of people doing great at Everfree, I’m sure there will be much more demand for tables next year, but I hope they don’t expand the Vendor’s Hall too much, if at all. :>
Everfree tweeted a post-con survey a few days after the con, which I really appreciated. It’s great when a convention actively solicits feedback. Morgan also sent out an email a few days later asking for vendor-specific feedback.
From the survey, it sounds like Everfree is considering adding other American children’s cartoons to their programming so the convention won’t be single-fandom anymore. I’m not really sure what the general opinion has been on that, but I don’t really know what I think about either. Friendship is Magic’s popularity has been phenomenal, and the diversity and far-reaching power of its fandom has been pretty — yeah, I’ma say it, dammit — magical. Would adding other shows to the roster take away from that? That great herd camaraderie? Maybe, maybe not.
Whatever they decide to do though, I don’t…really think it will have that much of an effect on vendors.
Con staff: A+
Con organization: A+
Hotel layout: A
Overall enjoyment: A+++ WOULD ATTEND AGAIN.
Bronies are great, and friendship is magic. (ﾉ´ヮ´)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Though I think next year, I might drop commission prices Friday to encourage more people to NOT last-minute commission things Sunday afternoon, haha. ;)