It seems like a rite of passage that fans attend at least one major convention in their lives. Unfortunately, in the Ocean State, such an opportunity is woefully scarce. While there are small events that dot the east coast, the nearest major convention is held in the Empire State. A big-time, arena-filling event just doesn’t happen very often in this neck of the woods. It’s always been this way, and many though it would be this way. RI Comic Con sought to fix this, with a two-day con that would fill two of Providence’s biggest venues. It was uncertain as to whether we’d be able to attend, as we agonized and waited for final approval on press passes. When the e-mail arrived, though, the hype was on. We’d be making a part of history, as we covered the first major geek convention to hit Rhode Island.
As we arrived at the Dunkin Donuts Center, we passed a line of people waiting in the chill of the crisp November air. Their faces showed glimpses of both excitement and pleasure, as their minds raced with visions of the upcoming experience, and their bodies reminded them of the chilling cold. Inside the building, there were no more than twenty people preparing to meet the crowds. However, their attention was more focused on checking in the incoming trickle of VIPs and press. I was excited to be part of this first time event, as was my partner in crime Mike Ferreira. After we received our passes we quickly made way to the skyway to the convention center and the main exhibit hall.
We made it upstairs and were quickly enamored by the array of movie vehicles that were strewn about in front of us. The Ecto-1, two DeLorians from Back to the Future, an R-2 unit in front of a Land Speeder, and even an original Bat Mobile. Great Scott, was this event already interesting!
The exhibit hall was empty aside from the lucky few that were able to enter early, which allowed us scout ahead of the impending masses. Through the emptiness, though, it was clear to see that the hall was too small for the crowd that would soon fill its alleys of stairs and vendors. We surmised that the organizers underestimated their crowd. This became apparent to others, as thousands of people formed into an impenetrable sea.
The vendors in the hall were proudly displaying their wares, and the stars were quickly prepping their booths with pictures and price sheets. As we walked past the Battlestar Galactica row, I was taken aback to see Herb Jefferson Jr. (Lt. Boomer) alone at his booth waiting for the mobs that would soon envelop him. I was dragged over by Mike, and soon I found myself conversing with one of my favorite science fiction TV actors of all time. I thanked him for his work, but the thanks was only returned with thanks from him, to all the fans that have kept the spirit of the show alive. After we parted ways, the rest of the hall seemed to flash by at a moment’s notice. Before we knew it, we were imprisoned by the onslaught of entering fans.
The attendees are always the lifeblood of the convention, and I soon had a taste for what we would see the entire weekend. There was cosplay in all forms; from Hellsing’s Alucard to Xenomorphs, as each costume’s flavor refreshingly vibrant and distinct. Unfortunately, if fans are the lifeblood, they’re also the sweat glands. Before we even set foot into the Dunk, Mike warned me of a sensation he dubbed “con funk.” He couldn’t explain exactly what it was, but he assured me that I’d know it when I smelled it. I can only describe this horrendous stench as what would be produced if somebody poured ammonia into a cesspool. Thankfully, the stink could not ruin the great experiences that would soon follow.
We were able to be part of great panels, each hosted by men of such stature as Billy West, John De Lancie, Tom Kane, and Peter Mayhew. We were able to talk one-on-one with some truly amazing people like Frankie B. Washington (Robot God Akamatsu), James Biggie (Robot God Akamatsu), Ryder Windham (Star Wars), and Casey W. Coller (Transformers). So it was easy to say that from the artists to the stars and everyone in between The Rhode Island Comic Con had a great array of personalities and talents. Though the con did struggle through some minor problems, it is easy to see that the event staff were keen on improving, and that these growing pains would surely be solved for next year’s event, and hopefully many more after that.