MarsCon is a convention that occurred in Williamsburg Doubletree by Hilton Hotel and happened between January 17th to 19th, 2020.
It was a weekend, fun, party where Sci-Fi and Fantasy are the main focus or theme. When they say a weekend party, they are telling the truth. So many events and attractions were offered that you had to be selective in your choices.
Whether you were doing cosplay, seeking deals in the market areas, enjoying music, playing games, joining your favorite panels, or even volunteering; this convention had it all for those wanting these things and more!
I wanted the status of volunteer, and decided to help out at MarsCon. The MarsCon mascot was Marso the Martian, and as a mascot, the person really suited the role.
Boy, the first day was busy for me soon after I ate breakfast at Doubletree. My shift began at 10 am but 9:30 am soon became the time instead of 10. I ventured down to the dealer’s room where I was greeted by Jennifer, who the leader of that area, and sent me right away to assist the other vendors.
Specifically, I was assigned a couple who had books galore in their booth. I did not mind…by unloading cases of books on a dolley and bring them inside to sort through and organize on tables. If you think that just unloading was a sole job then you were gravely mistaken. After the loading dock, the couple also me to organize books by the author’s last name and man they were at least 26 cases for every letter of the alphabet. I even put a bookshelf together and for all of my efforts, they insisted on me to choose a book. The book was Sympathy for the Devil by Holly Lisle where a woman asks for amnesty from the underworld and she literally gets what she wants with the devil himself seeking her out personally.
An hour passed in the dealer’s room and at that time the vendors that were there were all set up. I went to the section supervisor and she sent me to go to the Con Suite. Apparently, Con Suite is the area for MarsCon attendees could go and get food throughout the convention. My first task was to blow up the inflatable trays for the salad bar. Funny thing, I was getting nowhere trying to put air in this plug that was similar to a beach ball. I did not succeed until one of the staff showed me a method of putting your teeth on the plug and then blow which made it so much easier. I washed a drink container in the men’s bathroom which was lots of fun and then proceed to dump old ice in coolers. There were a total of two coolers where ice was necessary and one of them had cheese beginning to defrost so the fridge was the immediate place to put them. Also, I helped a third staff member to get food out of the car and bring it into the building.
After Con Suite, I stumbled across the Art Gallery with aid from the volunteer coordinator, Addie. The art gallery had many grid-like panels for artists to hang and hopefully sell their art pieces. There were wood carvings, paintings, sketches, jewelry, and other creative works all ready for sale to the convention goers to buy in an auction format. My job was to hang signs of the artist who had that space and so for every two panels I put their name. This helped those to distinguish what spaces they had and which spaces belonged to someone else.
I would get to know two artists one by seeing their art and knowing them that way and one in person directly. Theresa Mather had a booth where I set it up based on her diagram to place her art according to numbers on the sheet. While I was setting up, I kept staring at one of the dragons she had and this one was 50 Shades of Green. Mather’s art has a certain element to it where she puts a joke in the drawings and 50 Shades of Green was one of them. I bought this piece for its constant mentions of books in the background like Bad Fiction, MeloDrama, and alt course the green dragon reading a book. In this section, I soon met the Guest of Honor Charles Urbach who has countless works in books, game covers, and other visual art projects. He combines a very traditional pencil and coloring to the visual art software on the computer to deliver covers from the Magic the Gathering series to Star Wars and many others. I thought it was very cool that he said: “For anyone to be successful in any creative field, they need to be stubborn and keep doing their content regardless of what the world thinks.”
For the rest of the convention, I did not have any specific volunteer positions but in programming. Basically, programming is where a volunteer goes in a panel and reports on the outcome of the panel. I was responsible for writing the number of attendees, when it started and ended, the panel name, panelists on the panel, did they stay on topic, and most importantly a brief description of went well or other general notes.
Not only was I enjoying the panels but I was a volunteer at the same time. Addie, the volunteer coordinator, told me to have fun and provide feedback on the panels that interested me on behalf of MarsCon. This opportunity taught me the importance of why panels or workshops are essential for a convention. More importantly, the people who are doing these panels are vendors, convention attendees, and special guests who all broaden a convention’s success like MarsCon.
The panels that I reviewed are as the following: Win, Lose, or Draw, RavenCon Meeting, The Future of Post-Apocalypse Fiction, Professor Indiana Jones: Tenure Review, a trolling panel (Trolling, Trolling, Trolling), and Flair Bartending Sci-Fi Mocktails. The ones that stood out the most are Win, Lose, or Draw Indiana Jones, and the Flair Bartending panels. Win, Lose, or Draw was hosted by Kevin Fowler and it was actually a game all designed by him. In the game, we had two teams and those teams had to bid a time at 90 seconds or below to draw based on what they saw. A team could get points based guessing the drawing correctly (3 points), steal from the other team (2 points) and penalty points from the other team getting it wrong (1 point). Indiana Jones panel was a panel about the tenure review of Indiana Jones teaching at a college.
The panel was hosted by Some Nerds who have a Podcast and was a skit routine of a famous fictional archaeologist teaching an archaeology class. It was supposed to be funny in terms of Indiana Jones not having the professional skill set to be a professor like spending the college’s on exotic business trips and showing up with hard to believe stories about his journeys without such artifacts he went there for. Flair Bartending was mocktail demonstrations by Alexis and her son, William. They showed demonstrated mocktails like Shirley Temple, Roy Rogers, and a recent online favorite of Baby Yoda. There were five mocktails in total and was a family-friendly activity with non alcohol mixing of drinks.
In conclusion, I learned that a convention can have ties to a party theme and generally a good time overall. I personally liked getting an experience that was more volunteer-based where the enjoyment was beyond the original assumption. I met people and formed connections that I could later use.
Probably, my most favorite part was speaking to Mike Pederson and somehow being part of their convention planning for RavenCon. I went to their RavenCon Meeting and got lots of information about their convention. RavenCon and MarsCon at least this year are rival conventions in the scopes of them both being in the same hotel at Doubletree. I am ready to be put through the wringer according to the other RavenCon staff as Mike’s assistant. I feel that MarsCon 2020 went without a hitch and then some this year. It is definitely worth the shot to go back next year and many more years down the road.