Small Cons vs Big Cons

Conventions Entertainment GeekMom
Rebecca in a blue wig playing Kung-Fu with Ceili Conway (home-made Jack Frost cosplay!) Image By Karen Conway
Rebecca playing Kung-Fu with Ceili Conway (home-made Jack Frost cosplay!). Image By Karen Conway.

I was introduced to geek conventions with a small con in my home city called Albacon. It hosted maybe one hundred people? I played some games, listened to fantasy authors, and watched anime with a friend for a day. As a parent with two early elementary aged children, it was a wonderful escape.

“That was fun!” I enthused. My friend shook his head.

“No. No. You have to come to ConnectiCon.”

So I accompanied my friend that summer to ConnectiCon. Ah. I understood why my friend had not been impressed with the other one. ConnectiCon, a fan-run convention, had a few thousand people (now they have close to 10,000), many dressed in elaborate cosplay, tons of panels on such a variety of topics, famous guests, soooo much anime, and way more than I could take in. As someone new to being a geek, and an older woman with kids, I felt somewhat out of place. But I was intrigued by this culture, started getting into it, and went back year after year. Eventually I brought my kids when they were teenagers. Love it.

I’ve also been to NY ComicCon, Arisia, and PAX East. Some big conventions around here.

And I’ve enjoyed myself at Pi-Con, “The Friendliest Little Convention in the New England,” as well as subsequent years at AlbaCon.

A couple of weeks ago, my kids and I tried out GeneriCon, another small geek convention close by. We played games with friends we knew (Kung-Fu!), watched some anime (Angel Beats), attended panels (Bad Anime by ConArtists was brilliant), admired artwork, participated in Iron Cosplay (10 minutes to put together a costume on a random theme with random materials), and generally had a good time.

I love the energy of big cons: famous names, rows and rows of cool art, crazy panels with loud crowds, big stage cosplay events, jammed-packed late-night dancing, test playing new games, and the incredible realization that THERE ARE SO MANY GEEKS OUT THERE! I remember describing NY ComiCon to someone, “If you took the entire population of Albany, turned them into geeks, and threw them together in one building—that’s what it’s like.”

At smaller cons: Cheap tickets. No lines for the bathrooms. No lines to get into anything! Plus, keeping track of my kids was darn easy in a small space. There’s also something else: getting to know the geeks in your community. At GeneriCon, I kept bumping into people I knew from other walks of life. They didn’t seem surprised to see me there (I do write for GeekMom) but I didn’t know THEY WERE GEEKS TOO!

I’m a fan of cons, and I’ve had good and bad experiences at large and small ones. What are your experiences? Do you like larger or smaller exclusively?

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10 thoughts on “Small Cons vs Big Cons

  1. My family looks forward to GameStorm every year which is local convention. It’s really affordable for a family to go, it’s all gaming (mostly board/card/RPG), and the kids have a blast too.

    I’m looking forward to going to GeekGirlCon again this year, too. Though I didn’t go last year, it has been exciting to watch that young convention grow.

    1. Affordability is a big issue when you’re bringing the family!

      You’re out on the West coast, right? I’d love to know if there is much difference between cons across the country, or do they all follow roughly the same format.

  2. SDCC is the only con I’ve been to (hometown advantage!)– I’ve been maybe six years now? And definitely my favorite part is the sense of community. The first time I went, as I waited in a three-hour line to pick up my badge at Preview Night, I texted my mom and sister: “I am among a great multitude of my kind.” They laughed, and so did I, but it really was like coming home.

  3. Albacon was my first-ever con, and I love it dearly. (I’ve been going since 2002.) I also had a great time at Noreascon 4/Worldcon 2004 and World Fantasy 2007. I think you’ve captured the different “vibes” perfectly.

  4. In years gone by, when money was less of an issue, my con schedule ran along I-90 in New York. Eeriecon in Niagara Falls, Astronomicon in Rochester, and Albacon in whatever city they were in that year, all small cons I enjoy for the familiarity of company and the ease of getting around. My daughter grew up with these cons, among people who knew her. She’s eighteen now and still attends when her school schedule permits. She has her own presence; people recognize her as an individual, not only as “Morgan’s daughter.”

    Another benefit of regular attendance at a convention where I know almost everyone is the sense of safety. I wasn’t worried about leaving my girls–my 10-year-old daughter and 14-year-old goddaughter–to go around the con without me, as long as they checked in regularly.

    I hope to be able to attend more often in the future. There are people I miss seeing–Hi, Melissa!

    I do enjoy the occasional Worldcon, but I don’t think I miss those when I have to skip them as much as I miss my “local” small cons.

    Nice post!

    1. Even though ConnectiCon is a mid-size con, it’s like a reunion every year with people I only see once a year. And now my kids are part of that crowd too. I like knowing so many people I trust that my kids can hang out with.

  5. Fellow Albacon peoples!!
    I love bringing my son Albacon, the fact it was small works in our favor as he has Autism.
    We’ve gone to NYCC, but I had a panic attack, too many people, too easy for him to run off and get lost. We haven’t been back since he’s past the staying-in-the-stroller days, but are planning on attempting it this year again. We’ve also gone to Katsucon which was pretty sweet and his first Con.
    We will always be Albacon lovers!

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