Kyle J. Steenblik

How FantasyCon blew me away.

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Concerning Conventions

FantasyCon was the first convention of its kind.  Immersive and interactive, it plunged visitors into fantastic worlds unlike any convention before it.  Unlike most conventions, they eliminated over 200 exhibitor booths to provide an arena, art museum, archery range, sets for photos, and multiple performance stages.  There was so much space that even with 55,000 attendees in the convention center it never once felt crowded.  Never once did you feel you were blocking traffic just by stopping to visit a vendor’s booth.  Everywhere you looked, there was artwork, statues, and costumes.  It was all but impossible to be bored, or to even see everything in three days.  The environment was so fantastic, and open, and welcoming that it was difficult to find anyone without a simile.

The technical layout successes of the convention floor are sure to be of interest to only a few readers here, so I shall not linger long upon them.  Allow me to simply say it was very good, and by good, I mean the artistry employed was nothing if it was not world-class.  This is where I fear my photographs fail to do justice to the years of work that were on display.  Including the worlds tallest dragon named Volos, animatronic rock gollums, floor to ceiling guardian statues, a castle, and a collection of original paintings.

A Storm of Foam Swords

When I walked onto the convention floor on Wednesday night during the preview for families of critically ill and special needs children the first thing I noticed was a large battle arena.  A large space to watch exhibitors from ULA (Utah Larp Alliance) and volunteers engage in honorable combat.  Over the next three days, I would watch the organized combat between the SCA, Belegarth,and Amtgard and amateurs.  Individuals that had been LARPing for years and those that had no idea such a thing existed, crossed swords and clashed shields, as the Salt Lake Pops Orchestra played appropriately dramatic danger music.  It was a very different setting to what I was accustomed to watching.  I frequently watch local Amtgard troupe in the park on the weekend, at least when I find myself in the same place at the same time, but those battles are less organized, less of a spectator event.  Since the convention is now past, I cannot recommend watching these battles in the same manner I was able to, but take a trip down to the park on Saturday morning.  There are multiple organizations, it wasn’t all Amtgard, but they are the local group I am familiar with, and I would recommend checking out their website if interested, you can find your local group here http://amtgardrecords.com/atlas/.

There was more than just the battle arena; there was also an archery range, which was incredibly popular.  I watched countless families learn to wield a bow with deadly accuracy, my own included.  The ULA groups (the SCA Barony of Loch Salann, Belegarth,and Archery Range Coordinator, Sir Ceowulf Gunderson of Amtgard) hosted the archery range; they were extraordinary, taking time to give everyone willing a quick lesson in the modern middle age art of archery.  I should probably mention that the arrows were safe foam tipped, while I imagine a good shot to the head would feel far from pleasant I doubt any real damage could be done.  After a quick lesson, and several bulls-eye shots it was time to thank the range masters and move on.

The Long-Expected Party

The party, or performances I should say, began Wednesday night, after the charity preview event, they hosted a kickoff party.  None other than DJ Elijah Wood who it turns out still uses vinyl, which I found quite pleasing, hosted the kickoff party’s main event.  As that party ended, and the main event began, the entertainment was very nearly non-stop.  There was a main state for various performances, plus no less than four smaller performance stages and spaces for jugglers, magicians, musicians, fire dancers, and acrobats and at one time a rouge comedian (who I believe was an opportunistic attendee that saw an opening on an unoccupied stage).  I could have been quite happy with the event just watching these performances; honestly, I wish I had spent more time watching.  By far, my favorite performance came from the Salt Lake Pops Orchestra.  The video below is a poor excuse of a recording I made using my phone, and it sounds like it.  Never the less, it is a recording of them playing a selection from How to Train Your Dragon.

The Wall Market (at the convention)

The convention and any convention really, is not all about entertainment and celebrity guests.  It is an opportunity for artisans and artists to present and sell their craftwork and artwork.  The majority of booths at FantacyCon were small local (at least regional) businesses.  The work on display was impressive.  I wish I could say I visited every booth, but there was simply no time to visit everything.  I would need at least a solid week to take in everything crammed into three days.  I spent a good amount of time watching the glassmakers and the blacksmiths.  It is endlessly fascinating watching the beautiful pieces they turn out using fire, and their hands and a few basic hand tools.  Next on my list of most visited booths is the setup presented by Denver’s Best Western Dino Hotel, and the Morrison Natural History Museum with Paleontologist Dr. Bob Bakker.  It may be of interest but while they were present, they also conducted a Reddit AMA where wide varieties of subjects were discussed.  Immediately after having my head filled with paleontological knowledge, I wandered over to Loth Hoodies.  You may ask yourself how much time one could really spend talking about hoodies, to you I say; you would be surprised.  These are no ordinary hooded garments.  First, the hoods are massive, similar to what you would find on the fantastical Elvin cloaks of Lord of The Rings.  I spent a fair amount of time talking with them about their growing business.  Their new product designs, what they their customers have been asking for, and how they have decided to use only local manufactures.  I won’t get into the details but we did spend time talking about clothing durability and reparability as well.  Suffice it to say, I will very soon be putting in an order or two … or four.  The last vendor that I spent an unusually long time talking with was the folks at Astolian Wands.  The details are likely only interesting to a few, but to summarize, they hand carve wooden wands engraved with ancient runes.  The work is beautiful and I was impressed with the time they took to painstakingly handcraft so many unique pieced of artwork that can ignite the imagination.

Many Meetings

Finally, in this whirlwind of a convention wrap-up have to discuss the guests and their many panels.  There were many guests, they were all incredibly pleasant, and their panels were beyond entertaining.  All I can really say is if you were not there, you missed out of something special, so I will try my best to not make you feel bad about that.

A personal highlight for me was meeting MY Doctor Sylvester McCoy; a close second to that experience was my children being enchanted by him.  The first thing I have to say about his is that he is absolutely every bit as fantastic as you might imagine.  He was actually very kind to me as I blubbered like an idiot in front of a man I have watched nearly my entire life.  I had somehow convinced myself that he couldn’t be nearly as charming in real life as he appeared in every interview and performance, but I was quite wrong.  The moment I apologized for interrupting him, and he whacked me (in a very playful manner) with his cane I knew he was used to dealing with fans.  Moreover, when my son asked him if he had his own TARDIS he patiently took the time to tell him all about it, even showing him pictures of it.  I think I am going to adopt him as an uncle or some other distant relation.

 

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