Wanna hear about how I felt accepted in a con space, didn’t starve, and somehow didn’t do any mash-ups? Read on!
Okay, I fibbed a little. If you want to get into my headspace about attending pop culture cons as a POC, you’ll need to wait for the launch of the Oddity Prodigy Productions blog. We’re working on a great round of publications (I see you, costumers), and I’m crazy proud of my team! Additionally, I am only going to briefly touch on my costume choices from last weekend in this post. I’ll release a longer write-up to cover all of the last minute decisions I made about fabric and finishing techniques later. On to BlerdCon!
BlerdCon is a 3-day convention held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, near Washington, D.C. I was drawn to their table at Otakon 2016 to take a picture of an amazing Raiden cosplayer and a gorgeous Mumei, who I was also playing that day. Before they’d finished their pitch, I was onboard. The con boasts “exclusively inclusive” programming, after-hours content, VIP amenities, and a community open to all nerds. I can co-sign these items, having attended all three years, and I’ll raise my strawberry lemonade in salute to the staff for being the friendliest, most enthusiastic team that I have ever encountered.
Hotel cons are great for going 24 hours, and this year was even better because of the food truck rally being held “on campus”. There were a variety of options for the entire family, and yes, there was always food when we needed it. My favorites were Taste of Trelawny (Jamaican), HealthyFool (Asian variety), and Frufetti (Shaved ice). We also ate delicious funnel cakes and pizza, but I may still be in a food coma, so I’mma stop there. There were chain restaurants within walking distance for anyone who had time to burn, and the hotel had its own grille with an elevated pricing structure. The point is that there were choices.
This was the first year that I didn’t get to attend the dozen panels that I’d marked on my schedule. Friday evening was a wash after my photoshoot and a good meal. And the rest of the weekend flew by catching up with people and taking pictures. For the few workshops we did catch, I was excited to learn and got swept up in the magic and camaraderie. On Saturday, we started the morning with “Intro to Leatherworking”, run by Allegriana. I have a number of leather accessories and my American Duchess shoe collection, but I’ve never worked with real leather. There was a standard fee for supplies, for anyone who opted to make a leather cuff. However, general attendees could gain a lot of leatherworking insight listening to the instructions and explanations. I am happy to report that I am now obsessed and look forward to throwing my money into this craft as well.
In the afternoon, we attended the dance classes run by Smoove Cosplaya–salsa and bachata. As a dancer, I have gone to more movement workshops than I care to think about, but none of my instructors has ever given a consent and inclusivity speech before starting class. The applause from just an introduction was tear-inducing. Blerdcon was like that for us all weekend–a safe space to let that geek flag fly without fear of scorn.
One ticketed programming highlight for Hench Hubby and me was the Blerdlesque show on Friday night, produced by Midori Minx. The performers were amazing and the vibe was set at a respectful “YAS, Queen” all night. Despite start delays (totally normal) and a viewing space that was less than ideal for a stage show, the staff kept everyone informed and kept traffic flowing in the hall and cash bar. There were projector screens on each side of the room to ensure that everyone had a chance to see the action, the hosts were fantastic, and the stage kittens scooped up those dolla, dolla bills quickly and efficiently. Nightlife at a convention is important to many adult patrons, packing as much “offbeat” content into three days as possible. We could have spent the evening in the arcade, the tabletop gaming room, the Anime theater, or just hanging out in the lobby, but having the option for a professional show was a nice break from typical convention activities.
On the con floor, most areas are spacious enough to move around in, but don’t be surprised if you are unwittingly included in a spontaneous electric slide or podcast interview. Just embrace the family reunion atmosphere that this con has cultivated. The marketplace areas have expanded to two floors, boasting art, clothing, A BARBERSHOP, smell goods, yarn–like…a lot of stuff. There is so much to see and to do, and there are photographers everywhere.
Speaking of which, the costumes at this con are top notch, and the photogs and videographers are out in full force to document the magic. I had the pleasure to shoot my “Sparrowhawk” cosplay with SF Design on Friday. He’d camped in a corner of the tabletop gaming room, which was a great location to avoid distractions and random cell snaps from passers-by. On Saturday, the Redguard group that I’d thrown myself into (thanks, Little Brother) shot a great amount of material with Legend of Micah, Kitoko Art, and Depth of Light. Sunday culminated in a poolside Ariel meetup, including a “Part of Your World” sing-a-long that was as magical as I could have ever dreamed. And with all that action, I still managed to end up in six costumes over three days. Without delving into costume complexities, I’ll say that it’s nice to attend a convention and not be called “Black Zatanna” rather than just “Zatanna”…like, you have no idea.
If you do plan on attending BlerdCon next year, I recommend obtaining your badge and hotel room as soon as they become available. The early bird ticket deals are great right after the convention–a 2019 Full Weekend was $30 per person. This year they managed to work out a deal for overflow lodgings, and there are three alternate hotels just a quick walk away, for those who want to detach from the convention excitement during sleep hours. Download the hotel app and utilize mobile check-in, if you can.
Families: Let’s be realistic–the hotel is loud. It doesn’t matter what floor you’re on or what time of day it is. If you are staying in the host hotel, you will hear people, so don’t be filing a noise complaint when little Billy is woken by a screaming Bakugo at 1am. Invest in some noise-canceling headphones and keep it movin’. Note: I am an experienced con-parent with kiddos under 10 who’ve been attending events since they were 3 months old. If you want recommendations, put your questions in the comments.
Cosplayers: As always, read the costume, prop, and weapons policies that are clearly posted on the event website. Don’t bitch because your wooden club didn’t pass inspection. The weapons check table volunteers are good at what they do. They hide those zip ties in plain sight (as a courtesy for photos) and they don’t need your shit. This con works hard to keep us safe and we want it to be around for a long time. Safety first, kids!
General considerations: It’s no surprise that elevators are a nightmare, so keep that in mind while packing, and if you are able, please be willing to take the stairs. Don’t wait for the elevator if you’re moving between the basement and the lobby–hop on the escalators to save space for people who have fewer options.
Blerdcon very quickly became my favorite convention for its relaxed atmosphere–a family I hadn’t even met yet. The event is still young, but the enthusiasm of the organizers and staff goes a long way to make the weekend successful. I applaud their panel selections and appreciate their community support efforts. We see you and we love you, Blerdcon!