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D.C.’s Awesome Con lives up to its name

My wife pulled up to the D.C. Convention Center on Saturday morning, took one look at the mass of humanity wrapped around the building and shot me an incredulous look. “You want to go into that?” she asked.

No, not really. The line of people waiting to get into Awesome Con  went around the corner, snaked back the way it came and then twisted around again. I joined the end of the line behind a tot-sized Iron Man, two Captain Americas and a Disney princess.

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I hadn’t picked up my camera in about three weeks because of the move to the new house but shooting pictures at Awesome Con had been circled on my calendar for months and it was time to get back into the swing of things. What better time to get reacquainted with my camera than at a convention center filled with hundreds (thousands?) of cosplayers both willing and eager to have their pictures taken?

I didn’t attend last year’s event but by all accounts, 10 times as many people showed up this year. I heard one estimate that 40,000 people showed up on the Saturday that I was there. That would make Awesome Con one of the biggest comic book conventions on the East Coast — and that in just its second year.

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Awesome Con kicked off this year on Friday with an attempt to break the Guinness World Book Record for most cosplayers in a photo shoot at one time. While they failed miserably, the attention they got on a slow news day helped drive up sales on Saturday.

I shot some pictures at the Friday event but didn’t really like any of the images I made, with the exception of a portrait of amoxicillin vomiting diarrhea and another of blog link. For Saturday’s session, I decided to leave the 12-40mm zoom in my bag and, instead, went with my Olympus E-M1 and the Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95, which is perfect for making portraits in crappy light like you find in a convention expo center.

I had a good idea of what the light would be like having gone to my first “Con” last fall in Baltimore. I blogged about it in a post titled, “Baltimore Comic Con: Journey Into the Heart of Nerdness.” Awesome Con would be my second Con.

So it’s not like I have a lot of insight into how these things are supposed to run but I have to give the organizers a lot of credit for pulling off such a large event with just a few hiccups. Especially considering they were mostly overwhelmed on Saturday morning.

Ben Penrod, one of the founders, called the line to get in on Saturday “insane.” He wrote on Facebook: “That line was due to a few things that we hadn’t counted on. First, about 15,000 people showed up at the same time. We were expecting some lines, and we were expecting a large crowd, but this was bigger than we had anticipated.”

Here’s a few random thoughts about the event:

  • Comic con goers are extremely polite and considerate. Despite a line that would have been ridiculously easy to circumvent because of all its confusing turns, I didn’t see a single person try to cut line. I’m sure some people did but they were pretty much the exception.
  • Cosplayers are among the most patient people you’ll ever meet. A lot of them can’t walk more than a few feet without someone stopping them and asking to take their picture. Sure, they come to these things expecting and wanting to get their pictures taken but geez, even superheroes must get tired. Nope. Not here.
  • A friend of mine was stopped by a security guard because he was carrying a toy gun. He had to “register” his gun before he could bring it in. I’m not going to complain about tight security but it did seem kind of ridiculous that there was a vendor inside the expo that was actually selling REAL machetes, knives and brass knuckles. I was standing in the food line when the guy in front me started showing off his machete. Are you freaking serious?
  • The organizers needed about twice as many volunteers, especially to work the lines outside of the convention center. As it was, people who bought tickets in advance had to wait in the same line as everyone else. Not cool.
  • Compared to Baltimore Comic Con, I’d give the nod to Awesome Con for a much better food selection. On the other hand, I thought there was a better selection of merchandise vendors in Baltimore. But hey, Baltimore has been doing this a lot longer than D.C. and I expect as word gets out about this year’s turnout, more vendors will be putting Awesome Con on their “can’t miss” list.

All photos by Joe Newman. To see more, visit my Flickr page.

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Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

  • Brian

    I was searching for pictures of my Resident Evil cosplay and stumbled upon this website. Great post and great picture of me haha.

    • Joe Newman

      Thanks for posing. You made a great goon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/katieflemingcosplay Katie Fleming

    I am the Maleficent Cosplayer pictured in your blog. I really enjoyed your write up! It was a fantastic review! Thank you for including me :)

    • Joe Newman

      You were one of the best cosplayers I saw that day. Your costume was awesome.. Thanks for letting me take your photo.

  • http://www.flickr.com/dcnerd Chris

    You hit the nail on the head with the need for more volunteers, which is part of the growing pains process. Now that awesomecon has staked a place on the Con circuit map, perhaps some people who work other regional Cons like Oktagon will cosnider volunteering. It was amazing to see the transformational growth from last year. I think Awesomecon is right now at the level of a Wizard Con and within distance of being like EmeraldCon in Seattle in 2-3 years. Things like the long lines will get better as they get more practice ruuning a Con of this size.

    • Joe Newman

      I think they’re going to have a bright future. Who wouldn’t want to come to DC for a weekend?

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