Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my first regional comic convention in Louisville, Kentucky. After cutting my teeth on the likes of New York's mega convention, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it be terribly provincial? Was I too jaded to enjoy a show floor smaller than four city blocks? But as it turns out, not fighting the crowd for everything from parking to seating to the last wilted, soggy turkey sandwich was a breath of fresh air. If you've ever been on the fence about checking out your own state's geekfest, there are eight good reasons you should give it a shot.

#1 - The crowd size is manageable.


Photo By: Jereme Dickens

Did you know that attendance of San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 topped out at over 130,000 people? That's a higher population that some cities all streaming into a convention center space of about the same size as 45 football fields, shoulder to shoulder all trying to shop, show off their outfits, meet celebrities, see panels, and not pass out from an anxiety attack brought on by hitherto unknown claustrophobia.

Regional conventions are a completely different animal. After psyching ourselves up to three days of being buffeted in a sea of fellow fans moving up the aisles like a majestic geeky salmon run, it was all in vain. Sure by definition there were 'crowds' but to battle hardened con-goers it is so easy to navigate it almost feels like a trick.

 

#2 - The fans are respectful and not creepy.


Photo By: Jereme Dickens

Everyone reacts to meeting their idols differently. Some break down in tears, some choke and become incoherent, some repeat the mantra 'be cool, just be cool' internally and try to maintain a sense of decorum. And then there's the asshole. The fan that gets handsy, or tries to sneak behind the curtain, or feels entitled to a celebrity's time because they waited in line for six hours to get this autograph.

This doesn't seem to be the case in smaller conventions. Whether because the herd is smaller and therefore assholes would be easier to catch or because fear that being jerks will stop celebrities from ever gracing the Mid-West again, fans were content to patiently wait in (short) lines. The level of trust is so high there isn't even security keeping an eye on the back of the celebrity booths. Sure Sean Astin has his handlers but I'm literally standing less than a foot from him with nary a burly bodyguard in sight.

 

#3 - But talent is way more relaxed, willing to have some fun.


Photos By: Jereme Dickens

Smiling for hour after hour as a stream of crying and babbling humans files past you demanding your signature and undivided attention definitely feels like a level of hell. But celebrities are paid well to stay in good spirits for the first fan and the forty-thousandth fan.

This is slightly less Herculean task at a local convention. When there are less people, there is less pressure and also less risk for the talent. They can come out from behind the table to hug or talk or just goof off. With shorter lines, each person gets a more personalize experience, actually getting to talk for two to five minutes with their favorite celebrity and sometimes even getting a one of a kind interaction. For example, Michael Rooker — Merle from 'The Walking Dead' — tried on my Google Glass…and then bolted out onto the show floor with them. Try that at SDCC and he'd be mobbed.

 

#4 - The art and swag is reasonably priced.


Art By: American Dischord and Thirteenth Floor

Perhaps due to the nature of how expensive it is to have a booth at SDCC — some might even go so far as to call it borderline extortion what with paying for the space, then separately for things like the exhibitor badge, access to the wifi, tables and chairs — or perhaps due to being in a larger city, items for sale boast high price tags. Some people save literally for months in order to blow thousands of dollars in a weekend. Scoring limited edition art and action figures gives the same high as hitting the Triple 7 on the slot machines and both might cause you to put out a second mortgage on your house.

Yes the selection at a regional convention will be smaller but we were shocked how many names we recognized from other events like New York Comic-Con. And with a smaller footprint comes less overhead which gets passed on to you, the consumer. Economics! There were lots of flash sales and just straight up good deals that seemed almost obscene, like 'Buy two prints for $20, GET TWO FREE'.

 

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