Walking into Pheasant Run resort in St. Charles Illinois on a Friday morning in mid September, one would not expect anything too out of the ordinary. The site is host to a full 18 hole golf course, a beautiful hotel and a conference center. This weekend in particular, there were plans on hosting two wedding celebrations and a business retreat for a group of General Motors executives. Fairly normal when it comes to the types of events here. But there was one other event going on that weekend that none of the others would have expected: a My Little Pony convention, named Midwestria. Look beyond the cut to read about my experience there.
Not Given Much of a Chance
Before the event opened, the feeling surrounding Midwestria was a chorus of low expectations and doubt surrounding a convention that did not have as much fanfare and hype as bigger cons such as Everfree Northwest and Bronycon. Updates for the con seemed sparse, the guest list didn’t contain what many fans of the show considered an immense amount of “Star Power” contributors to the show or the fan base to consider going, and on top of all of it, the con was set to last three days which led some to doubt that they could effectively manage to keep an interesting con going for that long.
I won’t lie when I say that I also had heavy doubts that this con would be able to provide the same level of fun and entertainment as the others I had been to. Originally, I was not even planning on going, and it was only at the behest of some friends who were attending that I decided to make the short trip. I walked into the lobby of Pheasant Run at 11 that Friday morning, about an hour before opening ceremonies were due to start, looking for registration. And with a quick question to one of the hotel staff, I was directed to the Arnold Palmer room where Con Ops was based.
I immediately got flashbacks to the registration debacle at Everfree Northwest as I was told that the badges were not available to collect because the person bringing them had not yet arrived, potentially due to the Chicago teachers strike clogging up traffic in certain parts of the city. But my fears were thankfully unfounded as the badges arrived about a half hour later, before opening ceremonies began.
In the meantime, I had met up with fellow Round Stable member Adelor Lyon and my friend/cameraman Nirvash. With nothing else to do at the time, we started exploring the con area. Aside from a few wide open rooms that were being used for panels and the Dealers Den, Pheasant Run has quite a few very nice areas including an expansive atrium that on occasion featured live music, and even a recreation of a New Orleans street, though it was barely used.
After getting our badges, we gathered in the main panel room for opening ceremonies along with a smattering of other people (including someone in a full-bodied Vinyl Scratch fursuit cosplay) It wasn’t until slightly past the intended start time that anything happened, and my boredom was held off when a nice man in front of me offered to let me try out Slenderman on his laptop. Finally, the con chair Justin Chappelle walked onto the stage, and welcomed us to the con. He gave a small speech where he thanked us for attending, and then turned over the stage to some of the guests who were sitting in the crowd to introduce themselves. One of these guests was a musician by the name of Cyril who actually had helped make a track for a video I had made previously for an obscure ask Tumblr blog based on a particularly rectangular shaped pony, as well as a few other musicians and panel guests wishing us to have fun. While people seemed upbeat, I was still having doubts how well things would turn out considering the meager attendance at opening ceremonies and the slight hiccup with the badges.
Maybe We Can Get an Arranging Interviews Cutie Mark! (Friday)
From this point, we were free to go about our business. Looking over the schedule, there were quite a few differences from other cons we had been to. One big difference was there were no times for signatures from the guests, though this did happen at one point, and at no cost to the people getting signatures I might add. After looking at what there was to do and a brief photo opportunity with the previously mentioned Vinyl Scratch cosplayer, we decided to take a look at what was happening in the Dealers’ Den which lay right next store to the main panel hall. There was a variety of pony items to be bought though I did note that there were a lot more plushes and hand-made items over artwork compared to other conventions. We browsed the aisles and bought some items but didn’t stay too long. The reason being was that it was time to start discussing another goal of why I had come to the con. Considering I was a last-minute addition to the convention and the only known member of The Round Stable going at the time, it was arranged for me to get a press badge for the event. And since I had a press badge, I was expected to play a reporter role for the website, not only for making this write-up, but also in trying to get interviews with the guests of the con. Specifically the three writers from the show who were attending, Amy Keating Rogers, M.A. Larson, and Charlotte Fullerton. For someone who had never tried to ask anyone for an interview before, nevermind it being someone who wrote for a very popular TV show, this was a completely new (and nerve-wracking) experience for me. I had briefly seen Larson having lunch with fellow press member Final Draft from Everfree Radio but I felt that it was not the time to intrude on them. Instead we sat in a lounge area trying to map out questions and figure out just how to approach any one of the three writers, for interviews that I was not fully prepared to do.
Opportunity soon knocked as Larson entered the lounge area along with an entourage of people. All Adelor said was “Go!” and I stood up and approached him. Thankfully, he was very willing to stop and talk, and after explaining I was from The Round Stable, he instantly remarked about how he had tweeted from the website several times. This did make it easier to ask him if he’d like to sit down for an interview at some point during the weekend, but it still didn’t change a lingering doubt I had that something would get in the way. Fully expecting him to reject the offer, citing being busy, or having to authorize it with an agent or some other figure, he instead asked “Would noon on Sunday work?” Hearing those words, I felt like I could breathe for the first time all day. From that point, it was a simple matter of setting a scheduled event in our phones and we went our separate ways. I think I can easily say that when I returned to Adelor and Nirvash, I was probably wearing the biggest smile I would have all through the entire weekend.
Something I wanted to note, was that this was my first interaction with any of the guest writers and it was the beginning of me understanding that they are just as approachable as any other person you would see anywhere. Previous con experiences had me seeing guests from the show and, in some cases, fandom guests being guarded tightly and treated like celebrities to the point that there’s this feeling of them being unapproachable outside of their scheduled appearance times and so perhaps that’s where the thought that it would be the same way with the writers came from. But over the course of the weekend, I found it to be the complete opposite and it was such a breath of fresh air to have it feel that way. They were walking around the con area constantly, and didn’t limit themselves to talking and hanging out with just other guests. The only potential negative consequence of this is that there were a few fans who did appear to become somewhat clingy to the writers during the weekend, but the feeling I caught from each writer, was that they were so genuinely happy to be at the con and have their work celebrated to this degree, that any negativity was drowned out.
With the major task of getting at least one writer to do an interview during the weekend done, I relaxed a great deal and started to truly enjoy the events. Before long, we were joined by two other friends who were staying with us who go by Lex and Lucky Chance online. We settled everyone in the room, exchanged some gifts, and then were off to finally see what the con had to offer. There were a variety of panels the first day with discussion ranging from fan fiction to making your own custom pony figurine , to panels discussing a certain theme or portion of the show. And these were in addition to musicians holding a concert in the afternoon and an open gaming room. We sampled a little bit of everything but ultimately ended up at M.A. Larson’s solo panel in the evening. Adelor sat next to me furiously typing notes as Larson recounted stories of his first experiences of seeing what the show looked like, going over the process of how episodes were written and working with Lauren for the first two seasons. During the interview, who should try to sneak into the room (unsuccessfully) but Amy Keating Rogers who also chimed into some of the questions asked. After the panel was over, I met one of the most helpful staff members of the con, who I promised I would make a mention of. His name was Trevor, and he was the staff member who was assigned to be the handler of Amy Keating Rogers and Charlotte Fullerton through the weekend to make sure they were at scheduled events and also make sure nobody got out of line with them. Right after the panel, Rogers went up to talk with Larson, and since I didn’t wish to interrupt them, I approached Trevor and asked if it would be ok to get an interview with her. I have seen some handlers of con guests completely turn people away in this situation, but Trevor simply said, “We should be able to work something out. Maybe after Mrs. Rogers’ solo panel tomorrow.”
The prospect of having two interviews was definitely light heartening, but this was also replaced with the realization that I was not fully prepared with the questions for these interviews. The last-minute confirmation of attending the con had left me in a poor organizational state and I had to work quickly to fix that. Luckily, I had a lot of great people help me out. Lex and Lucky Chance both bounced ideas on things they wanted to know about the show. While some of the questions didn’t have a relation to what I wanted to ask, there were a decent amount of others that did, and we were able to come up with a fair amount of them. I also had the help of several folks on the Round Stable IRC to come up questions, not only for Larson and Rogers, but also for Fullerton, who I had not yet seen. After several hours, we had come up with a fair amount of questions for each writer and I felt much more relieved that I at least had a better idea of what kinds of questions I would have for each different guest.
It was a few hours later and we still weren’t finished, but it was decided that we should get out of the room and see what was going on with the con. My three roommates decided to go to a game panel called Equestrian Squares while I ventured off alone and found my way to a karaoke room where lo and behold, I found M.A. Larson and Amy Keating Rogers again watching the guests belt out songs of both the pony and non pony variety. At one point, Rogers went up on stage with a large group of people and sang Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, and took me by surprise with how well she good she sounded. Afterwards, Larson also attempted to sing one of the songs he wrote for the show, “The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000″ with press member FoalPapers. He then proceeded to stand there and barely sing any of it. It was a mystery to me if he just couldn’t see the lyrics on the TV or if something else was going on, but needless to say it made for an entertaining sight as he put his hands up in a manner saying “I don’t know what to tell you.” Also attending was Final Draft who I decided to introduce myself to while I at least actually did represent something of a press member at this con. I told him that I was a little intimidated at the prospect of talking to him. Not because he himself was an intimidating figure, but because he always seemed to be talking to someone notable from the show or fandom. He waved it off saying it wasn’t a big deal. We chit chatted for a small time but eventually broke off, and I went over to a wall to observe more people singing. I noticed that I had actually walked over the same wall where Rogers was at as well, and seeing as I already had one interview down, I decided to ask her directly if she would be willing to do another interview later in the weekend. This time seemed to be much easier, due to a combination of having success with Larson earlier and knowing that she had done an interview with The Round Stable already. I went through the same spiel as I did with Larson and she agreed to do an interview at some point, though no time was scheduled right then.
Feeling very satisfied with the progress I made, I walked back to the hotel room and found Lex, Lucky Chance, and Nirvash already there. I told them of my success, and we then had another brainstorming session on questions. By the time it was 3 in the morning, I decided that I had worn out my welcome with being awake and went to bed for the night. By this point, I had such a great day, not only because of getting the two interviews, but also because there had been no significant problems with the convention as well. Looking back, it’s surprising to me how much of a change of mood I had about the convention during the span of that day.
Scrambling on Saturday
About 6 hours later, I dragged myself out of bed. I would have loved to sleep for at least another 2 hours, but whoever made the con schedule and decided to have a panel featuring all of the writers at 10:30 didn’t take my sleeping habits into consideration. (The jerk) Lex though had beaten me by a couple of hours as he woke up even earlier to go see the beginning of the Running of the Leaves 5K Charity event that the convention was hosting, which started at 6 AM. If there’s one thing I know about myself, the combination of 6 AM and being awake is something that almost never ends well. However, there were a few reasons I made a point to attend the writers panel that morning, and every other writer panel there was that weekend. I wanted to gain more information about the process they went through that perhaps could be used in the interviews. I also wanted to at least know what Charlotte Fullerton looked like since I had not seen her at all the first day, and wanted to make sure that if I got a chance to ask her for an interview, I knew I was talking to the right person. The three guests were already up at the table of the main auditorium when the guests started filing in and they began a free-form discussion on what it was like to work for the show right when it first started before Season 1. They recounted stories of looking through Lauren’s bible of the show and noting how ridiculously detailed it was which in turn helped them a great deal in writing for the characters and the world in a believable way. Rogers talked about building characters and how she was responsible for having Zecora talk through rhyme because before that, there was nothing overly memorable about her other than she was a zebra. Larson talked about how he came up for the lyrics to “Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000″ by basing it off The Music Man’s “Ya Got Trouble,” which considering his performance at karaoke the previous night had me chuckling to myself. It was extremely interesting to listen to and very informative of their work flow on the show.
Once the panel had ended, people were going up to all of the writers talking and asking for things to be signed. I stood half way back from Charlotte Fullerton hoping to briefly speak with her about an interview, but then all of the guests were pulled away to the dealers den where they would sit together for an hour for signatures. Thinking on how to approach it, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and went back to the room to retrieve the Season 2 Wal-Mart poster I had brought along that I had gotten signatures on at Everfree. Myself, Nirvash, and Lex walked back to the dealers den and went up to the table. I first approached Fullerton and asked her about an interview, which she happily agreed to, and then got her to sign the poster. With Larson, I reminded him of our interview on Sunday, and he signed near the Cerberus pose in the background with 3 lines pointing to their heads. And finally, I talked with Rogers and scheduled an interview time of 3 that afternoon. I’m also proud to say that she complimented my Quills and Sofas shirt that to this day remains one of my favorite MLP related shirts I have.
With it being about 1 at that time, we had only 2 hours to make sure everything was ready. I went back to the room and went over our interview questions, made revisions, and printed them out in the business center of the hotel. I do want to note that during this entire process, Lex, Lucky Chance, and Nirvash were extremely helpful with everything. They offered ideas for questions, to help rewrite/revise questions, and print them out. I can easily say that I could not have done as much as I did without their help.
Finally, the hour came around for us to head to the con’s green room where the interview would be taking place. To say that I was nervous was an understatement, and I believe it does show if you go back and watch the interview video. Amy arrived with the con handler Trevor and we sat down in the only two nice chairs in the room. Next to us on either side, we had smart phone recorders set up, and we also had a clip on mic that we gave to her. With everything set up, I began talking and did a short intro of myself and Mrs. Rogers before turning it over to questions. I want to say that nervousness probably had a part in how I worded the questions because there were several times where she was correcting or clarifying the direction of the question, was which led me to believe that perhaps I had not come up with the best questions or did not word them correctly. One question had a setup where I mentioned that the depth of characters was amazing to the point that it was almost like the show was being aimed towards adults rather than kids to which and responded that she was ultimately writing the show for kids and that the only adults they wrote it for were the parents of those kids. Any other adults that liked it were completely unintentional. Another question I asked was if it had been easier to write “The Last Roundup” which dealt with Applejack’s pride after writing “Applebuck Season” where the lesson was similar. She responded that those were two different situations and that the lessons also were in different contexts. She did come back and respond to the questions to reveal information about her writing process for those episodes, but I remember at one point, my face flushing as I realized that I could have worded the question much better than I had. While these were a few moments where I could have done better, by the end of the interview, I felt that we had still covered some good ground on talking about subjects that had not been talked about before in major interviews. Ultimately it was a learning experience and I can definitely say that it played a big part for how I handled the other two interviews.
Right after the interview, Amy was due for her solo panel so we headed to where it was being held. On the way, we met up with Adelor again who had returned to hang out with us again. The panel room was packed to the point where people in the back had to stand because there weren’t enough chairs. During the set up, I was sitting with Adelor waiting for the panel to start and Nirvash came over to me. “Hey J, look who I found.” He motioned across the room where I saw Charlotte Fullerton standing to the side. I walked over and the first thing she wanted to know was when we would do an interview. We decided to do so right after Amy’s panel and within the span of two minutes, I had taken care of all of my interview scheduling.
Amy’s panel was also hosted by Final Draft, and he led a similar discussion to the one he had previously done with Larson. Amy talked about her start in wanting to be an actor and then moving on to writing screenplays for theater. She also went into her side jobs at places such as 1-(800)-Dentist, and talked about getting her start as a production assistant on Johnny Bravo and asking Craig McCracken for a shot at writing on Powerpuff Girls the same day he was going to ask her if she wanted the job. She also talked about a deleted scene during the episode with Derpy where the reason the town hall was in disrepair was because Depry had accidentally driven a thundercloud too close to it, which led to Final Draft going on a tangent about how the whole situation with Derpy wasn’t her fault because as the writer, and that she had no control on the outcome of what happened. It was meant as a nice note to the adult fans that unfortunately was scrapped and it moved people enough to have them clapping at what he had said. This was about the time the panel wrapped up, and we were off with Charlotte Fullerton for her interview.
We went back to the same room we had done the interview with Amy in and set up the cameras once more. Despite having done the previous interview a little over an hour beforehand, I felt a lot more confident with handling everything. I immediately noticed that while Rogers was to the point about her answers to the questions, Fullerton liked to expand, and go into a lot of details. And because I’m a sucker for depth of character and stories, it made the answers very interesting and fun to listen to. We talked about her initial impressions for the show and that led to her describing what it was like working for MLP, where they were writing strong personalities for multiple characters versus other shows where you might only see that kind of depth put into one character, and sometimes you wouldn’t even get that. She also talked about working on anime translation scripts, and also working on the songs she co wrote with Kevin Rubio, Art of the Dress and May The Best Pet Win. The unfortunate part is that I was not able to ask her all of the questions I had because we were on a time constraint due to her solo panel being about a half hour before we started, and I even had to say as I was opening up another question “We only have time for about two more questions.” I want to say that this interview was much smoother than the first one, and it was due in part because of having learned from the mistakes from the first interview and because Fullerton was filling up a lot of the time with the stories and details she was going into.
Afterwards, we headed directly to the panel room to watch Fullerton’s solo panel. Just like last time, Adelor was taking intensive notes on what she said. She started out with a big story about her journey of how she got into working for TV shows which included meeting Jim Henson with her dad and getting coffee with him which then led to her working with him overseas. She also talked about her time at Fox Kids and being apart of the production of the pioneering crossover film, Troops which was passed around from person to person in TV studios and became a viral video before the term viral video was established. Much like my interview with her, she went into a lot of details on her stories and before we knew it, the panel was over. Also to her credit, the last question was “Would you rather fight a hundred duck sized horses, or a horse sized duck?” which she handled by saying that it was a question that the writers would probably ask in their meetings, and that led to her talking about a war between the Keebler Elves and the Smurfs and who would win. Needless to say, it was an extremely entertaining way to end the panel.
By this point, myself and Adelor had gotten hungry and we decided to have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. As we walked inside, we saw M.A. Larson sitting at the bar with two other people. After we sat down, Adelor said he wanted to say hi and personally tell Larson how much he appreciated his work on the show, but because Larson was around two other people, he felt it would be rude to interrupt. So instead, he asked the waitress to let him buy a drink on our tab. When he got the drink, he looked over and waved lightly at us, and at this point I told Adelor to go and say hi, but again, he felt it would be rude. So I decided to do an undercover operation. I got up to go to the bathroom which had me passing by the bar, and on my way back, I walked up to him, apologized for cutting into the conversation and explained to Larson what Adelor wanted to say. I was expecting it to end there, but Larson one-upped it by saying he would stop by our table later to say thanks. After about 20 minutes, sure to his word, Larson came over and sat down at our table to say hi. It was funny, because I told Larson that Adelor was shy, and then Adelor proceeded to carry himself in a high energy conversation with Larson for at least twenty minutes. He talked passionately about the show and how much he liked working for it. He also talked about working for other shows but I am not actually able to repeat what he said about them because I was brought into what he called the “Cone of Silence.” By code of the Cone, horrible things would happen to me if I were to specify what he said about those shows, and I’m not one to tempt fate. It was a great experience and very awesome that he seemed to appreciate the gesture to that degree. The conversation was slightly soured when as we were talking, a group of people started gathering around our table and interrupted our conversation by means of shoving a phone in his ear to listen to foreign versions of pony songs, but it was near the end of the conversation and by that time, Adelor and him had a productive conversation with me sitting there listening intently. I mentioned earlier that the writers seemed like the most accessible and down to earth group of people from the show I had seen, and this was the situation I was thinking about as I wrote that. It was one of more personal interactions I’ve had with anyone from the show, and whether he knows it or not, he made both of our days. Rest assured Mr. Larson, the Cone of Silence will never be broken.
Afterwards, me and Adelor went to the main hall where they were performing a concert featuring a few musicians, most notably Odyssey Eurobeat. Something to note was that the concert was starting a few hours late due to technical problems and this was another theme we saw from the convention with panels starting later than the intended time. This was also the first time that I had actively participated in a music event at any pony convention. To be honest, I found every other concert at previous cons to have too many people and didn’t feel fully comfortable participating, but this crowd was notably smaller and seemed perfect for us to ease ourselves into. And while the person running the videos that showed up on the screens to the side of the stage had some questionable tastes, we found ourselves having a good time. While listening, the head of the con unexpectedly came up and talked to us. Unbeknownst to me, Nirvash had asked him to do an interview the next day after the Larson interview and so that was another set of questions we had to come up with on short notice. He also had found his way behind the stage to take pictures with the permission of nobody in particular, but nobody seemed to mind either.
And while the musicians we heard up to that point including, 7th Element and Chain Algorithm provided some great songs, everything was amped to another level when Eurobeat hit the stage. He played a mix of pony and non pony songs, but it did not matter because there’s something about his music that fired up the crowd more than any time before that point. Before the concert, I had heard his Discord song, but I never really gained an appreciation for it until I heard him performing it live. Downloading it to my MP3 player was among the first things I did when I returned home. And this isn’t a knock on the other musicians who were there, but his performance was by far my favorite part of the show. I even got to tell him myself as I decided to join Nirvash backstage. I was given a few glances, but nobody called me out to say that I should not be there. As Eurobeat stepped off the stage, I said hi and congratulated him on putting on a great show. We shared a short conversation and he came off as very nice, and glad to be attending the convention. By that point, the concert was winding down and I found my way to the karaoke room just in time to song Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing with Lex and Lucky Chance along with at least 10 other people on the stage. But after that, everyone was pretty tired. It had been a very long day and we still had two more interviews to do, so we took our leave and went to the room to get some rest.
Sunday was a lot easier to wake up on than the day before because I was afforded a whole 8 hours sleep. This was what I considered the light day because the only things we had to do were the interviews with Larson and the con chair. Otherwise, we were free to go around and see some of the con that we hadn’t been able to before. I dropped in on the musicians panel with Adelor but decided to leave early, because our time for the Larson interview at noon was drawing close, and also because I personally wasn’t liking the open-ended structure that the panel had. It was hard to hear what people were saying because they were all talking over each other and it became a jumbled mess of noise at some points. Adelor agreed, and we both headed to the lounge area to relax and wait until Larson came by. And indeed, a few minutes later he did arrive and cited that he wanted to grab breakfast before the interview. We agreed to meet in the interview room when he was done. Nirvash had since joined us with the camera and we headed to the room to set up. Unfortunately, Adelor stayed behind in an attempt to make sure Larson knew exactly which room to go to. However Larson must have walked past him without him noticing because he walked in after breakfast and Adelor was nowhere to be found. We all asked about him slightly but I also didn’t want to keep Larson for more time than needed so we decided to go ahead with the interview.
While I did enjoy all of the interviews, Larson’s was by and large my favorite for a couple of reasons. Due to having done two interviews previously and noting the most obvious mistakes I had made, I tried my best to not repeat them. I also found him to be very down to earth and easy to joke and banter with. He kept a slightly humorous attitude throughout the entire thing and I felt that most of the times we had a back and forth interaction, that it went well. We talked about some specific episodes he wrote including the “Return of Harmony” episodes, “Ponyville Confidential,” and the “Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000″ (which I also ribbed him on because of his karaoke performance). We also got into talking about his comedic influences, his previous work with Sin City and Gravity Falls, and learned a little bit about a book he wrote with the working title PennyRoyal’s Princess Boot Camp, which he told us was subject to change. He mentioned that he has already sold the movie rights for it and will be doing the screenplay as well. He even joked that since the target age group for it was girls aged 7-12, that bronies would also probably like it a lot. Overall, it was the most fun I had in these series of interview so far, and I was very glad to expand on the knowledge that we had picked up from Rogers and Fullerton.
We shortly realized afterwards that Adelor had missed Larson and had waited outside the whole time, not realizing that the interview was taking place. I do feel bad about this, but I do plan on making it up to him. Probably by buying him a copy of Larson’s book when it comes out. Afterwards, we were heading back to the room by means of the pool area, and we met Final Draft and fellow press member Joe Stevens from Equestria Inquirer taking pictures of a Plank plush from Ed, Edd, and Eddy in a lounge chair. It just so happened that I had brought my Rainbow Dash plush with us to the interview and they asked us to put her in the lounge chair next to Plank for a truly unique photo-op. Afterwards, they explained that they were going to be taking pictures of Plank all around the convention as a joke. We spoke for a little bit about our con experience up to that point, and then we went our separate ways, but not before Final Draft told me to say hi to our Editor in Chief KefkaFloyd for him (There, I remembered to do it!).
By this point, we had to gather our things and check out, signaling the end of the con was near. But we were not fully done as we still had to interview the con chair, Justin Chappelle. We relocated to our interview room to come up with questions for him and we finished that shortly before Justin showed up. I want to note that we had seen Justin multiple times throughout the con, checking up on as many things he could to make sure everything was running as smoothly as possible. To his credit, I do believe him and his crew had up to this point, done one of the best jobs I had seen of any pony convention I had gone to of keeping things going strong and making the con fun for everyone attending. This was expected to be a shorter interview than the ones with the writers and it did last only about 10 minutes, but we did learn about what his experience had been like running a first time con.
Something truly astonishing we found out considering how well everything had been running was that out of 80 people slated to show up and volunteer to help run the con, only 20 actually showed. It’s a wonder we didn’t see staff members running around like they were chickens with their heads cut off, which I have already seen at bigger cons that appeared to be fully staffed. But as per the interview, Justin said that he felt the reason that his team of people were working so well together was because they all knew each other and openly communicated when they needed something done or if they needed help. We also learned that they had gone to an outside company called Kollision, who specialized in setting up conventions, to help with planning the event. There had been some talk before the con that there was a corporate influence behind it and that they might not know anything about the community, but the reality is that they were simply helping the people who were in touch with the community to run the con. We also asked if Midwestria would be coming back next year, but at this time nobody knows if they’re going to try to do it again. We left the interview at that question and thanked Justin for hosting a con that everyone in the room said was enjoyable. Afterwards, everything with the con was winding down and after checking in lightly on the dealers den and the charity auction for a short time, I started saying my goodbyes to Nirvash, Adelor, Lex and Lucky Chance.
Midwestria in a lot of ways was one of the more unique cons that I have experienced and part of what made this con memorable for me was a different role of trying to get interview with the guests. By all rights, this weekend was work for me, but the experience was so new that it barely felt like it. This whole experience in a lot of ways was a team effort, not only from the con staffs end, but also with what me and my friends were able to do while there with the interviews. In a fashion that is not at all surprising considering the show we were at this convention for, I can easily say that without the help of Nirvash, Adelor, Lex and Lucky Chance that I would have come nowhere close to what I was able to do and they all deserve special thanks for contributing.
In hindsight, it’s shocking how much of a turnabout of opinion I had from the beginning to the end. I expected everything to be disorganized, and for the overall experience to not be as fun as the other conventions I had been to. This con was thought to be set up for failure and considering the situation the staff faced with most of them not showing up, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if it had failed. But through what can only be explained as true dedication to putting on a fun convention, everyone involved came together and did just that. By the end, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it had some of most well run panels and events that I had seen. The fact that this happened with only a quarter of the original expected staff is also by itself a huge success and everyone who worked there should be very proud of what they accomplished.
Now there is no perfect con and I wanted to go through the things that could be improved upon for possible future conventions. The problem however, is that the biggest flaw we saw with the convention was that some of the panels we attended did not start on time. This also happened with the concert on Saturday though this was due to technical difficulties and I’m unsure if there was anything that could have been knowingly done to prevent it. But other than that, the only complaints we had were minor things that were taken care of in a timely manner, for example, the con badges being delayed by a half hour. Not ideal, but certainly not something that was a deal breaker. It’s safe to say that other attendees had their own issues here or there, but we could find nothing major to complain about which is very rare in my experience.
I also have to give a huge thanks to everyone else involved with the guests and con staff who helped make this con experience as memorable as it was. This list includes Justin Chappelle, M.A. Larson, Amy Keating Rogers, Charlotte Fullerton, Trevor who was Amy and Charlotte’s handler, the people running karaoke, the people in con ops who gave us technical equipment when we needed it, and hell, every person on staff should just get a huge thanks for their efforts.
The question of whether or not Midwestria will be back next year is still up in the air, but I can easily say that if this same group of people are able to put together another convention next year, I will among the first people to sign up to go. And here’s hoping that anyone reading this who can make the trip decides to as well. ■