… It was the worst of times.
In all honestly the Cottage Country Con (CCC) in Orillia this year wasn’t all that bad. Reviews online may be a bit over zealous, but there is no doubt the show was plagued with amateur mistakes. From a setup perspective, space management and visitor flow, execution was a tricky, but doable for this venue configuration. Accommodations for special guests, a whole other topic of discussion, and just the overall feel was lacking. And this coming from seasoned con veterans, not some 1-a-year conboy vendor like me. And only after hearing all the opinions of those affected and understanding the real gripes that vendors had with the show, it was apparent. CCC went too big too soon. There were a lot of good points as well which I share in my post covering ADLi’s 2nd successful show.
The Orillia Comic Con 2017 was an eye opener for the Muskoka region. Young and old geeks and fans of game and comic media showed up in droves to enjoy the North-of-Toronto convention. It was their first year and it was great. Small rec center atmosphere, limited space and guests, but a solid first year for any show. I’ve been to a couple first and second year cons, and this one felt very tight and promising. Yes, a lot of artists and vendors didn’t make bank, but it’s a super small show. Those who craft or draw for a living can’t sustain off small shows like this so a lot of them stated they weren’t coming back. Understandable.
Moving on, the show had good numbers for a fledgling con. The organizers were ecstatic and wanted to go big for year 2. Changing the name to CottageCountryCon (which is more encompassing of the area) they moved to a bigger venue. A sports complex with two ice rinks. The space works as a convention centre, but as mentioned in my opening, was not utilized to it’s best potential. Cosplay and gaming were also two big factors I feel this show was lacking. It was heavily catering to the casual con goer and maybe its lack of niche stuff like inviting professional cosplayers or a gaming room really didn’t lend itself to the crowd they were hoping for. People won’t make the trip for an average con. It must be extraordinary! CCC really only had the movie cars and creators as 2 of many things a general fancon must leverage. I hate saying this, but more pandering required.
I look at the bright side. The show was good overall. I won’t let the poor experience of others ruin my opinion of a good show. It felt like a big con. It’s had the heart and space of a big con. It just didn’t have the numbers and guts of a big con, and that’s where I see the cracks. It is a totally different community north of the GTA and it’s hard to get a community of con-goers who are used to Fan Expo and Anime North to travel 1h 30m north to visit a fledgling show. Marketing had to be beyond average. They had the stars, they had the cars, they had the interest, they had the space, they had the energy, they had a great first year. But, the outreach, the hype, they pre-show prep, and the acknowledgement was good… but not great. Pulling people out of their convenience is a very hard thing. If we had the cosplayers and the gaming community willing to make moves I believe Orillia would have had a better turn out and this situation would be mute.
It’s disheartening to see that a local fan con such as this get flak and discredited from a lot of vendors. It may possibly hurt the show’s rep. The con vendor/exhibitor community has mixed feelings, and once the word spreads next year’s show may suffer. I doubt there won’t be a 3rd year, but big vendors from the GTA may be gun shy about ever setting up in Orillia again. I, for one, will do it again IF they keep the pricing relative to this year and sort out the follies they made. Learning from mistakes is possibly more crucial than learning from other’s successes. Funny enough the same organizers have another convention set for August in Bracebridge. This one is a Comic and Toy convention primarily, but those that missed CCC may second guess going to Muskoka Con due to the backlash. I’m going to roll through the Muskoka con either way as I enjoy going to those events. I’ll be observing how this one works out, from a con-goer’s perspective, and look out for some of the artists that may have been at CCC. I’m not a comic guy but I do like toys and collectibles. And cons are like family gatherings for me.
I’ve kept the review and my opinion of the con light hearted as I really don’t want to get into the politics that is convention exhibiting. You can watch my post-con thoughts below and share with me what you think. If you were at the show I’d love to hear your point of view. I share my opinion of the bad stuff for only the first minute and seventeen seconds. To get to the ADLi experience skip to 1:18.
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Like with any community there is a lot of drama, usually founded around experience, expectations and bias. Bottom line, it had its faults and didn’t live up to the hype and expectations according to some. Here’s hoping the Muskoka Con is a good one and Orillia can bounce back from this fumble and get back to small town con roots. I’d love to have a convention in my neck of the woods.