Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Decade of Construction: Anime Detour 2013 Recap

Wow, what a con  This past weekend, 5,000 people gathered at the Doubletree Hotel in Bloomington, MN, for what is one of the largest anime conventions in the state.  It was an exhilarating, awesome, epic weekend.  And I was in the thick of it.

The Thursday before Anime Detour, mother nature got massively drunk and decided to drop a ton of snow.  Several of the guests had flights cancelled, and those that did make it in had their flights delayed, experienced turbulence, and had a bumpy ride into the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.  Robert DeJesus mentioned that their flight from Indianapolis had to go north to Michigan before cutting west, just to avoid the storm system moving across the midwest.  But all the guests managed to arrive in a timely manner.

Myself and Michael Tatum
Staff spend so much time working during the con that they rarely get the chance to really sit down and chat with the guests of honor.  For that reason, the staff have a gala with the guests on Thursday night after the staff photo.  I spent a good hour shooting the breeze with Michael Tatum and his partner, Joshua.  Joshua and I talked cameras, and Michael and I talked beer.  It was crazy awesome.

During the gala, Stephen Gifford, the convention chairman, paused the conversation to give the annual motivation speech.  During it, he held up a small glass block.  He explained that it was given to Anime Detour by the American Red Cross for our donations to the Japan Relief Fund.  It turns out that we were in the top three donors to the Japan Relief Fund.  In the top five, we're among the likes of Best Buy, Cargill, and Target.  It's good company to be counted among.

On Friday, registration and badge pickup opened at 10:00AM, but the lines started forming around 8:00.  When I went downstairs at 9:30 to set up video gaming, I found the registration line had wrapped around the second floor of the north tower and had begun to wrap around the first floor.  Many people were already in costume while they were in line, and some people walking by would ask for pictures.  Some people like me.

There were a lot of amazing cosplayers at Anime Detour this year.  People came dressed as just about everything under the sun.  There were Homestuck cosplayers, Wreck-it Ralph cosplayers, various video games, all of varying degrees of detail and awesome.  One cosplayer stuck out to me on Saturday.

I ran into this Ash cosplayer while waiting for a friend.  He had a friend of his knit this pokéball.  He had another one, blue colored, that he told me he gave to a younger Ash cosplayer.  As he gave it to the kid, he told the kid to "go forth and catch 'em all."  So awesome.

Actually, the quality of cosplay this year was pretty high level in general.  Every couple of minutes, there was someone new.  I saw multiple Pokémon Gijinka, including several I hadn't seen before.  Over the course of the weekend, I counted Groudon, Bellossom, Umbreon, Espeon, Pikachu, Raichu, and Escavalier.  It was quite impressive.

On Saturday, I ran two tournaments:  Injustice and Mortal Kombat (2011).  Both tournaments were all sorts of awesome.  I ran commentary for both, and kept the show lively and entertaining.  Twenty people showed up for the Injustice tournament, which was pretty awesome considering that the game had been out for all of five days at the time.  I ran into several participants the following day, and a couple people even approached me to tell me that they liked my commentary and play by plays.  My comment to them was, "those who can play, play.  Those who can't, do the commentary."

While I had to miss it, the cosplay competition was a smash hit this year.  One of my friends won best in show with a dancing Cactuar.  I saw pictures after the fact, and she did an awesome job with it.  But that wasn't the highlight of the night.  One of the tech staff proposed to his girlfriend during the competition!

She never saw it coming.  They're an adorable couple, all the staff are really happy for 'em.  Of course, now they have to invite the staff to their wedding...

On Sunday, the wierdest thing happened.  When I went down to start my shift in video gaming at 8:00, the hotel was completely dead.  I don't know what happened, it was kind of eerie.  This picture was taken at 8:45 AM.  When I saw this, I thought something really bad must have happened during the dance last night and tons of people had to be sent home.
Actually, this convention went unusually smoothly.  As a convention, we expect medical emergencies to happen fairly regularly.  In years past, having the first 911 call at 7:00PM on Friday is a good year.  This year, it didn't happen until Saturday night.  And it was a preexisting condition.  Not only that, but the volume and severity of incidents were far less than years prior.  At one point on Saturday, one of the security leads got on the radio, "is anyone out there? Are you doing your job? It's too quiet!"  I think we scared her...

The Closing Ceremonies are always an awesome part of the convention.  Our guests go on stage and talk about how much fun they had, there's usually a prank or three that happen, and lots and lots of manly tears.  Shannon Townsend found herself interrupted with a video of her outside the nearby Dairy Queen with a message for her.  Her reaction? Drop the mike and walk off.

For the Charity Auction, Michael Tatum and Ian Sinclair decided to have some fun.  Being from Texas, the opportunity to play in the snow was too rich.  Joshua took a couple pictures, which were printed out and put up in the charity auction.  To sweeten the deal, the two of them kissed during the auction to appease the yaoi fangirls. They raised $260 by themselves.  During the Closing Ceremonies, Michael talked about how they'd pose for a pic, then start jumping around and flailing from the cold.  Poor Texans, they didn't know how to deal with the snow!

Carrie Savage broke down in tears on stage this year.  In the past couple of months, she has been in treatment for Muscular Dystrophy.  It's been really draining for her, especially because of lost working hours.  For that reason, we raised enough money to cover her rent for a few months.  We've done this in the past for other medical needs for our guests, and the response from our attendees is always awesome.  So she hugs Gifford, walks off the stage, and then Phade comes up.  He's the founder of Anime Music Videos and an all around funny man.  We at Detour love him.  He loves us.  He's an awesome guy.  He gets up there and says, "Wow, I can't follow this.  Look, Carrie! You made the ASL interpreter cry!  Gifford! This is unfair!"

Sadness followed by melancholic laughter.  It never fails.  Anyways, one of the Tech staff interrupted Phade's talk to thank him for all the work he does with the Tech department and gave him an embroidered pouch with the Anime Detour Tech logo on it.  As Phade and the tech staff walk off the stage, the audience began chanting, "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!"

...Which may or may not have been started by me.

One of our prior guests was unable to attend this year, much to his and our chagrin.  So even though he wasn't there, he still managed to send his regards through a video he recorded and sent to us.  Shinichi Watanabe, better known as Nabeshin, is a wild man.  He's a funny guy.  He's usually fairly politically incorrect.  So he had to tone it down.  Even so, he still managed to keep it funny.  Right down to the afro explosion at the end.  Like I said, funny guy.

At the end of this wild extravaganza, Gifford called all of the staff that had been there since 2004 to come up on stage.  Then Gifford thanked them for everything they've done.  He was a volunteer that first year, and joined staff shortly thereafter.  During his speech, he broke down into manly tears.  Darren, the son of two of the original staff, ran up, jumped off the stage, into Gifford's arms.  It was a moment of utter adorableness.

At the end of the weekend, I'm left reflecting on what has happened.  From the Charity Auction alone, we raised $21,300 for the American Red Cross.  We donate to multiple local organizations.  Each year, we donate $1,000 each to three different food shelves in the Twin Cities metro area.  We help fund arts scholarships to Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Art Institutes International Minnesota.  We help lessen the burden of the cost of upkeep for the Normandale Japanese Garden and the Como Japanese Garden.  This is but a partial list of where we donate.

We run our convention in a highly unusual way, too.  Every staff member pays to work at Anime Detour, including everyone on the board of directors.  Some staff even become community sponsors, paying $500 or more, and spend their time working at the convention.  I've been on staff for seven years, and have attended eight.  There's plenty of staff like me.  We count in our ranks over three dozen staff members that have been here more than five years.  There are staff members that have been counted in our ranks since their infancy.  It's something they've known their entire life.  And they look forward to coming back.  There is a passion here that is simply lost in other organizations.  We forgo sleep, food, health, and sanity to put on an experience that we feel proud to display.  We pay large amounts of money to do what we do.  We bring 5,000 people to a small area, filling hotels, restaurants, and nearby shops.  Within all of us, there is a passion that I have yet to see elsewhere.  And for that, I am proud to take a detour.  I will gladly keep doing it for another decade.

1 comment:

Casey S. said...

Love the little Gokus!