This is the con report I did for Convention Scene. Once they have published it, I will link their site here.
XCON World Brings Their 7th Convention to Myrtle Beach in 2014!
The Myrtle Beach Convention Center once again played host to XCON from May 16-18, 2014. Thousands of people came and went over the course of the weekend, visiting a convention that knows how to work their location! As it did this year, this show usually coincides with Myrtle Beach’s annual Bike Week. It is also the start of Summer tourist season for the Grand Strand, and what better way to spend an afternoon with the kids then at a comic convention.
Co-founded by Steven Haines and Robin Roberts, XCON has grown every year since its inception. “We started it out of a need for a convention in this area and in this part of South Carolina, really,” said Haines. “There just wasn’t anything going on here at that time. We’ve nearly doubled in attendance each year that we’ve done the show.” Haines and Roberts have done a good job of tying in XCON with other local tourist attractions such as The Pelicans Baseball Team, Medieval Times, MagiQuest and so forth. This year, staff, celebrity guests, and VIP attendees were treated to the premiere of the new Godzilla movie. Roberts anticipated over 5,000 would attend this year.
The Convention Center itself is massive. At $3.00, parking was reasonable enough. I spotted less than 10 official volunteers, so either there weren’t enough on hand, or perhaps they just weren’t easily identifiable. There were a lot of individual events taking place inside the large exhibit hall, catering to many factions of comic book fandoms. There was a booth wired for lap top computers to facilitate online gaming. There was another area set up for table-top gaming such as board games and RPGs. There was a mock arena cordoned off for the Sleeping Samurai Foam Weapon Battles. An inflatable bounce house was located near the back of the room for kids to jump in. The panel tent was located just outside of the rear entrance to the parking lot. And, as always, the main stage was set up in the center of the room.
While it was fun to see all of the other activities amongst the usual vendors and celebrity autograph tables, I have to admit, there are a number of things that I would have done differently with regards to use of space. Blame it on the homemaker in me, or blame it on the OCD organizer in me. Regardless, with such a large room to work with, better space management could come in handy. For example, if it were up to me, I would like to have seen the Celebrity Panels take place on the main stage and move the Nerd Trivia or Dating Game to the stage in the tent outside. I remember in 2013, not being able to get anywhere near the tent when Michael Rooker was there. Had he been on the main stage, all guests could have had an opportunity to see/hear him. The same goes for the guests at this year’s show. Also, from a financial standpoint, there were a lot of vacant spaces (or misused spaces) that could have been filled by more vendors, offering more options for attendees to shop and explore. I would have parked the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine (collecting donations for a Great Dane rescue–awesome) outside next to the Ghostbusters Ecto-1. This would have opened up room for two more vendors or artists inside the exhibit hall. The empty spaces between vendors made it feel as though the location were too big for the show. However, if their numbers continue to double, all that space will be needed. For now, though, it seems like a missed opportunity to offer up additional sights and give a little more bang for the patron’s buck.
That being said, this really is a fun show. If the only real complaint that I have is layout (not overcrowding, not price, not staff) then I can see nothing wrong with XCON. By offering up activities not only to the cosplayers but to gamers and children, they increase their potential to bring in new visitors. And that’s a smart move. More conventions should learn to know their audience and that to grow their audience you have to cater to multiple demographics, even if it isn’t your personal cup of tea. This year, in addition to holding a <13 age division costume contest, XCON held two adult costume contests. The first had winners chosen by a panel of official judges. In the second, winners were chosen based on audience reaction. “We had 32 kids enter the children’s division today,” said Haines. “That’s the most we’ve ever had for that age.”
Of all the conventions I’ve attended, XCON usually has the shortest wait time for celebrity autographs, which is a bonus in my book. And, quite often those celebrities will wander the room and check out the vendors themselves. Most of them end up exploring the local restaurant and bar scene each evening after the show, basically spending the weekend “chillin’ at the beach” like the rest of the attendees. This year’s guests included AMC’s Comic Book Men Mike Zapcic and Ming Chen, Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch, The Walking Dead’s Lew Temple (Axl) and Travis Love (Shumpert), and Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones. The con also included appearances by various cartoon voice actors, Power Rangers, and other familiar faces from film and television.
Again, if I were to offer any criticism at all, it would be to make better use of such a large space. Otherwise, kudos to Haines and Roberts for putting Myrtle Beach on the convention map! Children <12 are always free and everyone else pays one flat rate of $25 for the full weekend. The cosplay contest is always a treat (it’s no secret that the Carolinas have an incredible cosplay element). If you are a fan of comic conventions, or if you are just planning a visit to Myrtle Beach, XCON is definitely an experience to add to your to-do list!
To learn more about this convention or information about next year’s show, click here to visit the XCON website.