Ai-Kon’s Winterfest is over, and once again they went the same route as last year, hosting it as a sort of miniature 1-day convention. Last year I enjoyed the event overall, but it had some pretty significant organizational issues that really held it back from being spectacular. Have they taken the time between events and their long-standing experience with Ai-Kon to really improve, or did the issues remain?
The first thing I’d like to point out is the growth of the event… Winterfest as a miniature convention started as an experiment, and it sure looks like this experiment was a success. Last year I showed up just prior the convention opening and had to wait in a lineup of only a handful of people… this year, I arrived over a half hour before the event and even then there was a longer lineup than there was when the event opened last year. By the time the event opened there was a pretty significant lineup – not nearly as long as the main Ai-Kon convention or C4… but certainly a noteworthy lineup which is a very good sign. There also seemed to be more artists and vendors present.
One of the best decisions they made last year was to move the showing room to a location fairly far from the dance/store to give a quiet environment for showings. This year, they took it a step further by also separating the panel room into its own room far from the store and showing rooms allowing for a quiet and dedicated environment for each part of the event. There is a slight downside to this in that the showing room became somewhat hard to track down, but since they had a very easy to follow map this year, that isn’t a huge problem. The map also included the schedule for both the showing room and the panels room which fortunately did not start until a couple of hours into the event alleviating another of the big problems from last year.
This year the content, for the most part, was not of interest to me – but with such a small event, it is completely understandable that not everyone will find specific shows or panels to really pique their interest, but hopefully the growth I’ve seen this year will extend into an even larger event next year. But that isn’t to say I found nothing interesting – there was one panel that I found absolutely fascinating. I’m not planning to get into crafting cosplay, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about how armor is made using Sintra from Manitoba Mando.
Conventions never have good lighting for photography, but last year’s was particularly bad. Fortunately, the relocation of the store to a different room has improved it to be more along the lines of what I expect from a convention. I was able to get a decent number of pictures, although circumstances unfortunately put me in a position where I wasn’t able to spend as much time on the photography. The people were, as always, a highlight of an Ai-Kon event, and this year the atmosphere was particularly nice. I think the theme had part to do with that, because it’s hard to not have a pleasant environment when surrounded by gorgeous Japanese formalwear.
Winterfest is a rapidly growing event, and when an event from year to year corrects nearly every issue you had with it… it is just fantastic to see. There was a bit less diversity among the showings than I’d like to see, and the event seemed almost too small for the attendees it had this year… but neither of those are issues someone running a convention is particularly saddened to see.