The Road So Far: Part 2 – My Very First Convention Experience (SPNVan 2017)

If you’ve read part one, you know the backstory that led to my attending the Supernatural convention in Vancouver last weekend.  Unfortunately, one of my friends couldn’t make it at the last minute due to a death in the family.  However, she fully encouraged the two of us to go and let our freak flags fly without her.  While we knew it wouldn’t be the same without her to freak out with us (let’s face it, lady…you would have been at the highest freakout level of the three of us and you know it), we carried on determined to have a good time and promised to take a TON of pictures.

Now, as we had actually gotten ourselves together and had organized ourselves ahead of time, we had been building this thing up in our heads for EIGHT MONTHS since the ticket purchase.  We had watched a MILLION convention videos, which are highly entertaining even to non-fans of the show.  We had read the book Family Don’t End With Blood edited by Lynn S. Zubernis.  We were PUMPED.  And right before we left, we had a moment of doubt.  It was so built up in our minds, and everything we had seen made everyone seem so NICE.  We not so successfully attempted to reign it in and keep our expectations at a regular level.

We shouldn’t have bothered.  We had an amazing time.  So amazing that we have dubbed this our “gateway con.”  There will definitely be more in our future.  I have already resolved to go check out Calgary Horror Con next summer.

While I have never attended a fan convention, I feel like this fandom provides a unique experience.  I also feel like conventions are like life in general; you get out of it what you put in, and you can choose to put a positive spin on the bad.  For example, lines are inevitable.  What you do in them to pass the time is up to you.

As ticket package holders, we were able to pre-register the night before and pick up all of our needed tickets/lanyards so that we didn’t have to wait in line the rest of the weekend….highly recommended, by the way.  This was a HUGE time saver in the long run.  When we first approached the hotel (we were staying at another hotel just a ten minute walk away), we knew we were in the right place.  We saw people in fan shirts.  We saw people in Always Keep Fighting campaign shirts.  We saw people in costume.  We saw giant cutouts of Sam and Dean for sale.  And we also saw poor, harried looking people who were clearly just guests of the hotel wondering what they had done to deserve this and what the hell they had just wandered in to.

DAY ONE: FRIDAY

We were attending all three days of the convention, because if we were spending money on the tickets we were going to do everything we could on that schedule.  There was a LOT to see and do.  We spotted the author of the book, Lynn Zubernis, but it was just as a panel was starting so we were hoping to find her later and talk to her.  We were inducted into the group of “Friday people,” hilariously commentated on by Richard Speight, Jr. and Rob Benedict in the introductory panels as people who meant business, weren’t concerned about fiscal responsibility or employment obligations, and were completely separate from the “Sunday people” who were there only for Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles and their so-called dangerous musk.  What was surprising to us were the amount of people who were clearly repeat customers.  An opening question of “How many people are new to Supernatural conventions?” was met by cheers….but I would say about 60% of the people in that theater were repeat convention goers.

Rob Benedict’s (Chuck) band Louden Swain is worth the price of admission alone.  They were fantastic, and accompanied with Richard Speight, Jr. (Gabriel) they hosted the entire weekend with a lot of humour and a lot of great music.  The panels the first day were a great warmup for the rest of the weekend, and provided lots of opportunities to talk to the people around us.  Again, if you were attending this convention on your own and were unwilling to put yourself out there, you would have no fun in the downtime.  Easiest thing in the world to start a conversation: “Have you been to a convention before?”  In between panels, they ran trivia contests, costume contests, and music video contests that were always highly entertaining and fun to participate in.   FYI if anyone asks you about Rufus’ cabin, it’s in Whitefish, MONTANA.  We all got swept off the stage with that one.  The first day ended with autographs with Samantha Smith (Mary Winchester) and Emily Swallow (Amara aka The Darkness), who were wonderful and lovely, and clearly enjoying themselves.  There were a few hiccups with the reading of the seating chart that made the autograph line that first day slow, but we entertained ourselves throughout.  Plus, as package holders, they just call row by row so it’s not like you need to stand in line the whole time; you can come and go as you like, and of course, shop the vendors tables.

karaoke

The evening of the Friday was the Karaoke night.  What a BLAST!  Again, you get out of it what you put in.  At first, I couldn’t believe the number of people who sat stonefaced at the back of the room watching what was happening on that stage.  However, this is understandable if you look at where we were; Supernatural has a fair portion of its fanbase that deals with issues like depression, and social anxiety; many are drawn to actor Jared Padalecki’s charitable work in these areas and his openness in talking about his own issues.  In fact, when we got our third lanyard so that we could collect our missing friend’s autographs, the first thing they asked was if she suffered from anxiety.

For us, however, we were dancing and belting out the tunes like a couple of maniacs!  Granted, we were in a rather large group of other maniacs, so we felt okay about it.  Voices were hoarse upon return to hotel, let me tell you.  There were some technical hiccups with the karaoke itself, but the cast handled it with grace and humour, and completely rocked it in circus (and Power Ranger) outfits.  Emily Swallow clearly and completely enjoyed herself, making all of the participants on stage feel more at ease in a tiger costume that must have been roasting.  Matt Cohen (young John Winchester), Brianna Buckmaster (Sherriff Donna), and Alainna Huffman (Abaddon) kept cool heads and helped to pump up the crowd.  On this particular night, special guest participants kept coming out, associated with the show or not.  Osric Chau (Kevin Tran), who had clearly just flown in and come down to visit, still had a backpack on that was quickly ransacked by fellow castmates who then threw his underwear into the crowd.  Jerry Trimble (Ramiel) came on stage, clearly loving the fan love and leaning right into it.  Ron Livingston, who worked with Richard Speight, Jr. on Band of Brothers, made a brief appearance.  You could see on his face that this was not a typical convention, and that the fans and actors were not interacting in a typical way.  He looked floored…but it in a good way.

DAY TWO: SATURDAY

This year was also a special one for us to attend the convention in that it was the very last gishwhes, the brilliant brain child of Misha Collins, and the last day of the hunt took place on the Saturday of the convention.  So, on the Saturday morning before we returned for more panels, we got our coleslaw and our sidewalk chalk as per item instructions, and we attended a gishwhes meetup at the Vancouver Art Gallery (or, as Brianna Buckmaster gleefully pointed out, VAG).

The meetup was fun!  We talked to fellow gishers, drew a message of happiness as part of a large sidewalk chalk mural, and returned to the hotel.  On the way back we realized we were walking next to Emily Swallow and Samantha Smith, and complimented them on their karaoke skills.

Saturday was the first day that should have been nerve-wracking for us, but oddly….wasn’t.  We started off with panels and spoke briefly to Matt Cohen and Mark Sheppard while getting autographs.  Gil McKinney was hanging around the lobby chatting with anyone who approached him, and then in a later panel clearly remembered names and details from the people he had spoken to.  Then, we had the big one…our photo op with Misha Collins.

If you’re going to go to a convention, especially with a friend, I recommend a photo op.  I’m not going to lie, they aren’t cheap.  I’ve heard that Creation in particular is pretty pricey, although I have no basis for comparison.  However, one ticket gets you two people in the picture.  You can then split it and pay $10 to get a Jpeg so that you each get a copy and you have a good quality one to post on social media should you wish.  At this convention, the photo ops are taken by Chris Schmelke, who takes all of those beautiful shots you see all over twitter during the convention.

We opted for Misha Collins, who was much less expensive than the Jared/Jensen photos (sorry, guys, maybe next time!).  Being the last year of gishwhes, and having had so much fun during, we thought it would be worth it.  We ended up with ticket #5 for photos so we had no time to be nervous anyway, and you are in and out of there in like 20 seconds.  Both of us are experienced retail workers, and we are pretty accustomed to talking to strangers.  This really helped us out this weekend, and we were so much less nervous than we thought we would be.  With our photo ops, we dove in with the same attitude we dove into everything else: we were there to have fun, not to take a perfect picture.  If we were hot messes in that photo, we were prepared to go with it as it would be a representation of that moment in that time.  Again, this left us more relaxed, and our photo is lovely and amazing!

Misha

The highlight of the afternoon was Misha Collins’ panel.  He is such an interesting, articulate, well-spoken person with such a good heart.  And he is freaking hilarious when speaking about inadvertently scarring his children!  We followed that up with autographs, and again our tickets helped us out.  We usually were some of the last people called, so it allowed us to actually say something more than a rushed hello at each of our autograph sessions.  In Misha Collins’ case, we were in the last dozen or so who had purchased a separate autograph ticket.  In this case, I wasn’t really thinking about the Castiel hairbow I was still wearing when I went up to his table, which was mildly embarrassing, but hey, what can you do?!  He complimented it, anyway.  I was able to let him know that gishwhes totally did something to me, for which he apologized.  I then rambled on about my favourite item, in which I built an elaborate night club for some toys.  He high-fived me over it, and we chatted briefly.  Further proof of the genuine, friendly nature of this cast.

The evening brought yet another highlight of the trip: the infamous Saturday Night Special in which Louden Swain plays some of their music and sings covers with cast members.  For this, we had to wait outside as they did sound checks and set up security.  We were still guaranteed our usual ticket seats, though, so we weren’t concerned.  While we were in line, we ran into Lynn Zubernis!  We were so glad we did as we were able to tell her how much we loved Family Don’t End With Blood.  When the concert started, we were nothing but floored over how talented the cast are.  Brianna Buckmaster and Gil McKinney (Henry Winchester) have produced albums through kickstarter campaigns driven in large part by the Supernatural fanbase.  Emily Swallow is amazing and passionate and killed it….I wouldn’t be surprised if she was next.  Matt Cohen brought so much energy to the stage with Seven Nation Army.  And, we were in luck, as Jensen Ackles came out and performed Whipping Post.  My friend and I were floored and just kept elbowing each other hysterically.  I was on the aisle and am amazed that I didn’t end up on the floor at any point in time.  We went back to hotel happy, happy campers.

DAY THREE: SUNDAY

Sunday.  The big kahuna.  The Jared/Jensen day.

Before their panel, there was a panel with the wonderful Rachel Miner.  It was perfectly timed as she was kicking off her shirt campaign, Be the Clarence, that day.  She is so inspiring and very open and honest about being positive in the face of chronic illness and pain (for those of you unfamiliar, she played the demon Meg in the show until season 8, and was diagnosed with MS around season 6).  She was so lovely and spoke so frankly with the fans.

One thing that we found interesting was how full the room was compared to previous days…clearly a lot of people had purchased general admission tickets for the Sunday just for the panel with the Winchester brothers.  Also interesting was the fact that there were a lot of guys in that category.  Until that last day, the convention attendees were definitely overwhelmingly women.

J2

The panel was great!  They were entertaining and they get along so well.  One particular funny moment had us all killing ourselves laughing when someone asked where Dean keeps his amulet…it was followed by a barrage of puns about butts.  They were clearly enjoying themselves and just being themselves for the fans.  In one particularly wonderfully embarrassing moment for us, Jared Padalecki talked about how he believes that the only way for the boys to have peace at the end of the show is if they die.  Apparently, this is not a popular idea, but the two of us have been on the dead Winchester train since we started watching the series.  As people always record the panels, there will definitely be a video on YouTube somewhere in which the audience gasps and boos….except for two people who maniacally clap and let out a high pitched shriek.  That would be us.

Then came the autographs with them.  I will tell you…they are somehow even more beautiful in person.  It is just not right.  When waiting for Jensen Ackles, we were just about at the table when they let some of the security detail go.  A bunch of the security people who were leaving swarmed him, hugging him and thanking HIM.  He proceeded to hug them, shake their hands, and thank them for a job well done.  At this point, it was nearly 10PM, and they had been there since like 8AM doing panels and photo ops.  He had taken a brief break to go to the washroom and came back ready to go and engaging with the lineup.  When I got to the table I sort of blurted out, “Thanks for staying and doing this.  You must be EXHAUSTED.”  He looked up and gave me sarcastic Dean Winchester face, like “Holy crap, I’m so tired I don’t even know how to respond to that!” and we all laughed, then he joked with us for a bit before we moved along to Jared Padalecki’s line.  The point is, he was exhausted, and still took the time to talk to the remaining people, be genuinely friendly with them, and enjoy himself.

When we got to Jared’s line, there was a girl in front of me who was clearly EXTREMELY nervous and was having a bit of a meltdown.  He talked to her for a bit, then as she left maintained eye contact and then glanced at a handler who checked she was okay.  We thanked him for the great weekend and he was like, “It’s what I do!” kind of motion.  In both cases we were rewarded with winks, yet somehow made it through without falling over.

Overall, here is what I now know to be true about Supernatural conventions:

  1. Everyone is really that nice.  Really.  They do a great job in the lines as well with handlers who are friendly and do a lot of talking and chatting to make sure that people aren’t as nervous when they hit the front of the line.
  2. Photo op: choose one and go for it.  Totally worth the experience.
  3. Package ticket for a first timer: totally worth it.  If I were to go again, I would probably just do a general admission ticket for the panels I wanted, and pay for any individual autographs or photo ops that I wanted.  Silver admission suited us just fine: the only benefits to going gold are that you get autographs with every guest, and you get an extra half hour breakfast panel with the boys.  We decided it wasn’t enough to entice us to pay the extra.  Our seats were still fantastic; we were only 12 rows back.
  4. Budget, budget, budget!  Prices were actually fairly reasonable for most items, and they had some great glossy photos to purchase if you wanted one signed.  There were only four or five vendor tables, so we weren’t overloaded with temptation, which was nice.
  5. Participate to get the full experience!!!!  Scream your lungs out for panels, forget the people around you and belt out songs at karaoke, smile at and talk to people around you, wear a costume, answer trivia, resolve to love all of your photos…trust me, you’ll have way more fun.

So, there is my rave review of my very first con.  You can check out lots of pictures on my facebook, Instagram, and twitter pages linked above.  Let me know what cons you have attended and loved!

 

 

 

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