It is a rite of passage for many geeks to make a pilgrimage at some point to a Convention. Those hallowed halls of hotels and convention centers that for one weekend you can interact with others who love and worship the things that you love. It is like a family reunion but without the family who wants you to explain why you are wearing a Star Wars t-shirt(again) and when you plan on having friends that don’t live inside your computer.
These are the people who accept you for who you are…heck they will celebrate it with you. For me it was a time of joy, friendships, freedom and silliness. I will never forget those people that helped me grow as a leader in the convention and as a person.
It was a cold and snowy January day in 2001 when I saw that there was an Anime convention in Ohio. I was so excited to attend it that I immediately called my friend MJ, who lived close by the convention center where it was going to be located. Conventions had always held a mystic for me so I was excited to see what the fuss was about. MJ, being just as much of a Sailor Moon dork that I was, jumped at the chance and agreed to join me. We were in awe! It was a very small convention by today’s standards and I am sure there was a major creep factor since this was before anime had really become mainstream. But we both had gotten bitten by the con bug! Yes the place stunk of unwashed male bodies and the guest were not as exciting as they could be but it was a piece of freedom! There were other people just like us! And they lived in our state! We weren’t freaks!
After that I attended several conventions over the years and finally began to staff the conventions. Being a staffer at a con is probably the worst form of self torture that you could imagine. I started out working with security and making contacts with several people at other conventions. I mainly staffed at first because you got free admission to the convention as well as some built in people to hang with if your friends weren’t going as well. But it wasn’t until I became close with Ohayocon that I really began to pour a good deal of my life in to con stuff.
I started as a staff member with Ohayocon in 2004 for Live Events. It was a time of craziness. The convention started out with barely 600 people in 2001 and now in 2004 the attendee rate skyrocketed to over 3000 people. We barely had enough staff to cover the amount of attendees. It was nuts running around and cleaning up messes. But it was a beautiful mess! I loved the rush and the high of being around all the other attendees who were just as excited as I was. The next 4 years I worked hard and took over the cosplay event and eventually was the Vice Con Chair and then asked to be on the Board of Directors. I was so glad to see that my hard work had paid off. I could look back and see the convention as a job well done. I knew I had made people happy and I knew I had helped cultivate new fandoms!
In summer 2008 my husband decided to make the switch from National Guard to Active Duty Army. It was a rough transition and then when we got our first assignment I went into full on panic mode. I was leaving Ohio and moving to Korea. This was going to be my second year on the Board of Directors for the con. I was scared of leaving the States but I was more scared of leaving my con family. It was hard time trying to move and complete all the pre-con stuff before I flew out. It was a decision that the con would cover the price of my plane ticket to fly back to the convention. I was thrilled at the prospect of being back with my family. But once I got there, I felt stressed. I was cleaning up messes such as teens high on E and drunk adult men. I had to soothe egos and keep overenthusiastic attendees from destroying the hotel. I eventually broke down and cried in my hotel room. The convention was no longer fun. It was a job and one I wasn’t even getting paid for. It was my last year with the convention. I felt a hole in my heart. I had put a good chunk of my soul into the con years but I will forever look on them as being the best times of my 20’s.
So my advice to all you lovelies out there, if there is a local convention in your part of the world. Run don’t walk to the volunteer page! Volunteering gave me a better understanding of the fandom and created some life long friends that I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world.
Original Post from Beth Ann Grubaugh