So as many of you know, I'm likely moving to Indiana in a few months. As I've spent my entire adult life attending, staffing, and in one case co-founding conventions, my first thought was to go find out what cons were in the area that I could attend and possibly join the staff of. I assumed, as it's 2010, that I'd find a thriving independent convention scene like we have here in Wisconsin.
Not so much.
Okay, so that sounds harsher than it's meant to. It's not to say that there aren't cons in Indiana. Hell, the convention that spawned my love of working at them (Gen Con) is currently housed there. But while I love Gen Con (and always will) it's a large, corporate event. I've changed since I was younger, and prefer more personal events with accessible staffs.
Also currently calling Indianapolis home is InCONjunction, which is a small scifi con. That one I actually probably will add to my schedule, as it appears to be a nice little grassroots con that's been running for three decades. But they're a scifi convention, and it's a world I like to visit a couple times a year... not live in. So while I'll probably attend it, I won't join its staff and try to integrate myself.
Indianapolis does have an Anime convention: Anime Crossroads. Researching Anime Crossroads has shown me that it's run by a company called "Gamers Evolution Expo LLC." This is a group that runs multiple conventions in multiple states... which means it's likely a generic clone-con, with little local flavor. More importantly though, as it's run by an LLC, it's a for profit event. I don't really see myself as having a voice in a for profit, multiheaded hydra like this.
There is only one convention that I've found online that resembles the world I know: Ikasucon. Ikasucon is an independent Anime con with an attendance around 1,500. The only issue there is that it's held in Fort Wayne... which will be over two hours away, and not a staff easily joined. There are likely more cons in Indiana that I couldn't find, but I looked exceptionally hard in this case... and nothing is actually held in the town I'll be moving to.
Contrast that with Wisconsin right now.
The Wisconsin Con Scene (which is haloed by and half connected to the Twin Cities scene... but oddly separate from the Chicago con scene) is speckled with independent, medium sized conventions. No Brand Con, Daisho Con, Geek.kon, and Anime Milwaukee all have attendances between 1,200-2,100 people, and are spread across the state and calendar. New conventions like Kitsune Kon are popping up as well, and small scifi conventions are still holding on with Wiscon and OddCon. There are even local micro-cons scattered across the map, most of which are pretty easy to find online.
The important feature of all of these though is that they're locally managed, independent, non-profit organizations. Each convention feels different than the others. Even Daisho Con and No Brand Con, two events that get compared to each other a lot, have uniquely different feels when you really dig into them. Geek.kon and Anime Milwaukee are lightyears apart as well. The one commonality though is the passion exhibited by the staff. These are people in it because they love it, and they love where they're from as well.
The only uniform is a complete and total lack of uniformity.
So that makes me wonder, comparing this other region to the one I've been helping shape for the last decade: Is this scene we've built in Wisconsin unique, or do similar things exist elsewhere in the country?
I really do hope they exist... I just haven't found them yet.
Yeah, I worry you'll have to start it if you want it, which is a challenge if you lack contacts with a local group such as Otaku was.
Keep in mind, back in 2000 there was one anime con in Wisconsin, WestCon, and we, at the time, were attending what was to be it's last year. I won't do too much bragging here, but NBC was the first of the long-duration, truly anime cons in wisconsin. It's staff has gone on to play a big part in many of the other cons in the state. I think the departure of GenCon left a void that needed filling, which was the other big contributing factor, but NBC were the trailblazers.
Would other cons have sprung into existance without NBC? Almost assuredly. However, I think NBC was a shot in the arm to the local con community. We proved that a bunch of part-timers with minimal experience and no paychecks could hash together not just a con, but a good con.
WestCon: A now defunct Science Fiction convention that took place in Wausau, Wisconsin. It was run by the Wausau West High School Sci-Fi club and was helped by a local fandom community known as N.E.W.F.O.D. (North Eastern Wisconsin Friends of the Doctor). The convention ran for 5 years from 1996-2000.
I think the biggest thing wisconsin has going for it is how easily word of mouth seems to spread amongst the community (and that a community exists at all). I look at the history of the Omaha scene (aka the Minneapolis to my hometowns Eau Claire) around the time I was growing up and I'd never heard of a single one of these cons. http://www.osfes.org/1990-1999.htm
There were a few Creation branded Trek cons in town that were complete disasters and that was about it. As a high school student I would have killed a man to have even heard of something like NoBrandCon. There was AnimeIowa on the opposite side of the state (which upon going to one I felt like you did at AnimeMilwaukee last week...).
Of course...I did live in Iowa, the state known for it's three cities and amazing miles upon miles of corn...