It’s not often that I drive five and a half hours (longer with stops) for a convention. But many of my friends do just that to attend Lexington Comic & Toy Con, so I decided to try it out for the first time this year. It’s also not often that I leave a con utterly frustrated that it was such a horrible experience, but this was, apparently, a weekend of firsts.
For those who don’t know it, Lexington Comic & Toy Con is massive: the estimated turnout for the weekend was around 30,000 people. I don’t have a problem with large cons. I’ve been to many, but when they’re this big, a proper layout of the con space, an adequate number of staff and 110% organization is key. And, unfortunately, this con did not have any of that. In fact, I often described it as a complete clusterf***.
But let’s start with day one, Friday, which actually wasn’t that bad. I arrived in Lexington around 3 p.m. and headed straight to the convention center. I got there and got in without too many problems. They’ve tightened security this year, which means having to go through several metal detectors to get to the con floor, but in this day and age, that’s not a big deal and it made me feel safer. I wandered around in my Robin costume, posed for photos, checked out a few vendors and just got a feel for the space. Unfortunately, most of the celebrities I wanted to meet wouldn’t arrive until the next day, so I just sort of looked around at who was already there and made note of where those I wanted to meet would be once they arrived.
Friday was actually pretty nice. And I went into Saturday, all dressed up in my Senua (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice) costume, with good anticipation. And then I arrived at the Lexington Convention Center. There were a lot of people there. But again, I got through prop inspection quickly and through the first metal detector just as quickly. The second metal detector station slowed traffic quite a bit, and as the weekend progressed, it was the first to get turned off. I’m still not entirely sure why there were two security checkpoints.
Photo Opp Mess
My first real complaint is with the photo studio company, Froggy’s Photos. I pre-purchased a photo opp with Doug Jones for Saturday, but for some weird reason, I still had to stand in line to pick up the ticket. And I ended up having to stand in the same line as people who were just buying their tickets for photo opps. What is even the point of pre-purchasing if that’s the case? The photo opp room was a huge mess and continued to get worse over the course of the day. So that took about an hour. Every other con I’ve been to will send you your photo opp ticket via email when you pre-purchase it. There is no excuse for that not being the case.
But then it got worse, because it was almost time for my photo opp by the time I had a physical ticket in hand. And I was told by a staff member to stand back in the same line. I actually asked that staff member three separate times if he was sure about that and he assured me I was in the right place.
I wasn’t. And I didn’t know it until a few people in line told me. By the time I ended up in the right place (staff at this point was non-existent), Doug Jones was getting ready to leave the area. Fortunately, I explained my situation and he gave me a big hug because I’m pretty sure I looked like I was having a massive meltdown. I got the photo and it was just okay and I look extremely flustered in it. But whatever. I knew I wouldn’t do that again here.
Picking up the photo was equally as frustrating. I ran out of that room as quickly as my feet could carry me because I needed to breathe air. At this point, the con was literally so full that people could not move. But there was still some annoying person over the loudspeaker yelling at people to keep moving, although there was nowhere for them to move to. It was literally that crowded. I somehow made my way eventually back to the photo opp area (stopping at one nearby vendor to buy a print, my only merch purchase at the con), asked three people where I needed to get my photo and was subsequently told “I don’t know.” I left a message on the Facebook page for the con, and fortunately, another attendee told me where to go.
So I had to fight through the photo opp room again, which was even more crowded, if that was possible, just to pick up my photo.
Then I spent another hour waiting in line for Doug Jones to sign it in another room that was way too full for its own good. It’s clear that whoever designed the con floor literally has no experience or did no research on traffic flow patterns.
But there was good with the bad. Doug Jones was worth waiting for. He is literally the kindest and most special person on the planet. His line was long because he took time to talk to everyone and give them hugs. By the time I got to him, I was feeling much better. I placed my photo in front of him to get him to sign it and he commented about how good we looked in it. He signed it “There’s love for Robin” which is probably the one thing I really needed to see/hear at the time.
And then I got another photo with him at the table (it was included with the price of the autograph, which is something no other celebrity at the con did). He gave me several more hugs and I left that area feeling much better.
The chaos continues
That is until I had to navigate my way back out of that area and through a bottlenecked hallway and away from the con floor. Then it was utter chaos all over again.
I somehow managed to meet up with a friend so we could eat, and then it was basically time to get in another line to see John Barrowman’s panel. As always, JB was a delight, but I knew if I went back to the con floor after that, I would be miserable all over again. So I was done.
So here I was, in my best cosplay that no one got photos of because there was no space whatsoever to use to pose for photos. And that’s why I don’t have a lot of photos myself, although I attended the con as press: there was no space to actually take photos and if you stopped for five seconds to attempt a photo of anything, the staff would suddenly pop up and yell at you. And then disappear again if you bothered to have a question for them.
Granted, the last day of con started out better, although I realized that I hadn’t brought the right makeup for the Death cosplay I wanted to wear. So I put on Robin again and steeled myself for the crowds. By Sunday, the metal detectors were gone: the security team completely gave up. How crazy is that?
I got in line and waited for about an hour to get a selfie with Camren Bicondiva. The crowds swelled again and the traffic issues continued and by noon, I was ready to have a quick lunch with friends and drive home.
I have never left a con feeling so frustrated and I’m pretty sure I won’t attend this one ever again. I hate having to say these things about a con because I know it’s not easy to put on an event like this. But at the same time, the people putting together the event have a responsibility to the people who pay for such an event to keep it safe and fun. This was neither. We jokingly talked about what might happen in the event of a fire, but then we realized that a lot of people would have died had that happened Saturday or Sunday.
Again, I’ve been to some large cons before. But I’ve never been to one so poorly disorganized.
Whatever the case, though, I did manage to get a few photos, although I missed out on a lot of awesome cosplay photos because of the bad crowd control.