In the previous installment I went over the basics of what Wizard World Cleveland was and what it offered. In this entry, I want to illuminate more what the experience was like. Most of this is tied to the convention itself, but some is tied to its location and the accommodations.
Conventions can be quite a bit of fun alone, but I often prefer to share the experience with friends and family. In this instance I was able to have my wife and son to attend with me. Our hotel was quite nice, if not easy to find and was my first experience at sleeping in a room with a skylight. It was very pretty, but it is hard to sleep in with the sun beaming down on my face.
Cleveland’s convention center is a pretty decent sized, multi-level affair. It has a certain aesthetic appeal and seems fairly updated in design. When we entered on Friday, the convention hall floor was fairly empty. Most of the media guests were not arriving until the next day, but there were still several present and all of the vendors were ready for business. When you enter the convention center, directly in front of you is an overlook that allows you to see the whole exhibit floor from above. We wound our way down two floors to where all the action was to take place.
If you looked directly at the split entrance to the main convention floor, you could see to the left a series of tables where you could check in. Their check in process was brief and well organized. I never noticed a line stop moving and the rate of flow was pretty good. Even at the beginning of open on Friday, when I was expecting there to be a hug mob of people waiting to get into the main floor, there were no issues with crowd control.
I can’t say that I saw too much of a pattern in the placement of vendors, except in the most broad strokes. The media guests had a series of booths for autographs at the center of the hall, right after the performance stage. Towards the very back is where most of the artists and cosplayers resided, right before you found the area designated for the higher end photo ops. Charitable organizations seemed to be on the left.
The stage was actually a pretty nice setup. Large enough for a variety of smaller groups. Throughout the convention there were several musical performances, some animal handling, comedy and the like that took place there. There was always something going on and often it was accompanied by Kato Kaelin, who was extremely enthusiastic all throughout. Directly to the right of the stage was one of only a couple of things at the convention that was a minor annoyance. State Farm had a booth attempting to convince attendees to switch to their insurance. It was a little out of place, but easy enough to ignore. The same can be said for the presence of the Army recruiters.
As I made my way through the fork to the right, there were several booths for comics and assorted toys. For a fee, there were also some interesting opportunities to take photos–There was a replica of the car from Supernatural, complete with tricked out trunk full of weapons, and there were life-sized dragons from ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ to posed with.
The number of artistic offerings were impressive. There were styles that could fit anyone’s taste. David Wong, who we have interviewed in the past, was there for the first time.
There were several food vendors selling anything from chocolates to praline pecans to refillable custom mugs of root beer. There were also slushies available for the kids. The center itself also had some food options, though it was limited as most convention center food options are.
On the left side there were some other posing options like Ghostbuster vehicles and the DeLorean from Back to the Future. There were also several charitable organizations themed around some iconic pop culture features of the past. Star Trek and Star Wars were both represented, as well as G.I. Joe and the Ghostbusters.
In the back there was even an area to play board games and video games, though they were small. This was very near a manga library.
Truthfully, the floor felt in many ways like the glue that held all of the other major components together. Most attendees were there for autographs and photo ops, as well as several panels that the guests took part in. While you waited to participate in the major items, you could wander the vendor floor and be readily entertained. This created what felt like a more full and continuous experience rather than a feeling like waiting in line for a ride at an amusement park.
The last thing I should mention are the media guest panels. If you have never been to one, it is quite interesting. It gives people a chance to hear some stories about an actor’s experience working on a show, that they would otherwise never get to hear about, and there is often time for Q&A from the audience. If you really, really want to ask a question, try to make sure you’re as close to the front of the line as possible. Most questions require a decent amount of time to answer and each panel is limited in its time frame. If you aren’t able to ask a question, it isn’t much to be disappointed about, though, as the guests are more than entertaining, and this is an excellent way to get a little glimpse of what it is like to be them.
All in all, I think this convention was well constructed and quite a bit of fun. Even if you aren’t necessarily interested in any of the panels or celebrities present, the floor would likely be good for a day on its own. I would definitely take the opportunity to meet some of the stars, though. Each one that I spoke with was extremely gracious and I was impressed with how they presented themselves. Except for Jason Momoa. I only saw the back of his head so can’t really judge.