It can be one of the geekier splendors of life. The convention. Anime, Gaming, Furry, or something even more specific towards a single show or movie. Getting out and getting together with a bunch of like-minded people is a great way to spend a day or a whole weekend and get out of the normal humdrum of life and have some fun. Now while big conventions attended by thousands may grab headlines and coverage, sometimes it’s the smaller conventions that catch my attention over the mass attended larger gatherings that take place not just around the country, but around the world.
Now, I’ve been some of the bigger attended anime conventions over the year. Otakon, formerly held in the city of Baltimore ballooned over time with each of my visits, between my first visit when it was 12,000 people to my last visit where it was over 30,000 attending during the weekend in the summer months. Otakon is one of the biggest Japanese Anime centric conventions on the East Coast, and that is small change to some gatherings out on the Western side of the country that can bring in over 100,000 people during the course of a weekend. But while those experiences were memorable, it is the smaller conventions a little closer to home with a regular crowd of 100, 200, 300 that suit me the best.
Sure, those big conventions get the top flight convention guests, voice actors, animators, even industry people from Japan itself. They will get the big nationwide (sometimes worldwide) of big production movies, anime episodes, and other big-name events. The bigger cons get the big news breaking announcement by the bigger companies who also are part sponsors of the big event. But the one thing those bigger cons tend to lack in the community and the comradery. Not to say there isn’t any at all, but sometimes being at an event with the people who have been there year after year, even from the same place as you have (for me, Maine) adds an extra level of getting together with a like-minded group.
Smaller crowds also mean moving around much easier than it would be in a massive mob of people. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the layout of your location just as much as the people in it. Being stuck in a hallway 5 people across with 4 of those people going one way and 1 going the other is like being herded like cattle with no escape. But being 2 people across in a crowd of 25 to 50 people isn’t so bad. And going back to the; last point, maybe you’ll run into some familiar faces as well.
The big problem is when you are facing that in an emergency situation. While my experience thankfully wasn’t the worst it could have been with someone pulling the fire alarm as a joke during a stay in Baltimore, being herded out towards a locked stairway to the street level could have also turned out much worse than it did. If there had been an actual fire, who knows what would have happened. With a smaller convention, in those kinds of scenarios, that is not as much of a problem.
But the best part of the small convention for me is the people itself. In all my convention experiences some of the most memorable parts are just sitting around taking a moment and just talking to whoever is nearby. Answering questions, telling stories, admiring a person’s cosplay outfit. Just shooting the breeze. Sure, that can happen at any convention, big or small, but the small coziness makes little things like that part of the experience as well.
So, if you are like me and want to visit a convention, hopefully in the months where the weather is warmer, don’t necessarily pass over a gathering because of the attendee size. Even in a smaller con, you can have just as much, if not MORE, fun that those bigger mass gatherings.