This past weekend Springfield, Massachusetts held its first ever Comic Con at the Mass Mutual Center. The event was finally able to be held following a two-year delay due to COVID-19 pandemic. Surprisingly, the convention was only a single day which spanned from 10:30 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, July 23rd. Whereas, I was able to attend the event after only learning about its existence at practically the eleventh hour.
First off, getting to the convention was not terribly difficult, and the wait to enter it was not long either. I was able to arrive early, right when the convention was opening its doors to the public. Whereas, the weather for the day was warm, but not oppressive with its humidity. So, for the little bit of time spent waiting outside was manageable for myself and the others on line. Also, the con staff made sure the line kept moving, and not keep people from being unable to enter. Once I got inside, the con staff were very organized, as they directed me to the table for pre-registered attendees. At the table, they quickly checked over my pre-paid pass, scanned it, and gave me the wristband to enter.
Then the convention floor itself was contained to the first floor, and the second floor went unused. The floor was divided into several subsections housing all the vendors, the artists, and special guests booths. Everything was packed into one single room, which also included a kids zone, vehicles, and a stage. Walking around the floor was sometimes a chore because the convention did get extremely packed, especially around the special guests. The special guests and vendors had all their own merchandise and autograph packages, but prices were only available on site. For those unaware, some conventions will occasionally provide details on autograph packages before hand. However, since this convention did not include professional photo-op options, I can understand why prices were unknown.
Interestingly, the convention did not have a COVID-19 policy mandate like providing vaccination details or have to wear a mask. However, I did wear one out of courtesy, and knowing that getting sick at conventions is usually a common thing. In addition, the convention had its own concession stand, and did not allow outside food. For those not local to area, the concession stand must have been very tempting. Thankfully, being a local, I knew I could easily leave to eat at a nearby establishment and return if necessary. So, here is a very helpful tip for those considering on visiting Springfield for next year’s convention! Near the Mass Mutual Center, and about a 5-minute walk away is a restaurant called Nadim’s Downtown Mediterranean Grill. Their menu features pretty good meals, and they are reasonably priced versus the basic concessions found at the con. Furthermore, this article is not sponsored by them, I just thought to provide this tip since I am from the area.
Now, for the guests that were in attendance, the first big name was Jim Shooter of Marvel Comics and Valiant fame. Whereas, stationed literally right next to Jim Shooter was the creator of the comic Asterix, Jim Salicrup. Also, the event featured some other comic veterans, cosplay groups, and local personalities. In addition, as I briefly mentioned early, the event had vehicles on display, which were classic movie vehicle. However, I am unsure if any of the vehicles were onscreen used props, or recreations made by fans to be used at events. Overall, seeing all the sights and sounds that were the convention’s attractions was easy to do in a day. I personally wanted to meet Jim Shooter, and it was the main reason I decided to attend the event. Unfortunately, I could not get time to see him, but it was not due to the convention itself. Yet, that is not to say that there were not any problems with the first-ever Springfield Comic Con.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest issues that most attendees assumed to have occurred was that the convention oversold its tickets. The consensus behind this theory is because the convention announced over the P.A. system countless times that it was overcapacity. In addition, the announcements would mention how other people were still waiting outside to enter the event. So, I decided to cut my time short after hearing the announcement for awhile, and missed talking to Jim Shooter. Also, I did want to stay for the cosplay contest, but it was still an hour away from starting when I left. As a result, Western Mass News, a local affiliate to CBS, ABC and FOX, did an investigation regarding the issue. However, the showrunners dismissed these claims, saying that most attendees arrived too early, and led to the overcapacity issue. Currently, most attendees are suggesting that the convention should cap off ticket sales for pre-registration months in advance.
Also, I would like insist that moving forward that the convention should try renting out both floors. If the convention had use of both floors, the second floor could have been dedicated to panels and other attractions. Coincidentally, this convention did not feature any panel, and outside of the vendors the main attraction was the cosplay contest. Without panels or attractions like game rooms and tournaments, attendees either spent money on guests and vendors. So, if someone does not have a lot of money on hand, their only option is to wander the event. Ultimately, having both floors available would help with the capacity issue, and provide more room for attractions.
Another issue attendees like myself had with the convention was it being less than 6 hours and a single day. Most attendees were trying to make a full day out of the event, and to avoid the heat. I do not think that other attendees even considered briefly leaving the con, and coming back later. So, the other suggestion I have is for the convention to either get more time, or have an extra day. Also, the vendor would probably appreciate a longer convention because they may have not hit their quota. I cannot confirm this, but I assume some vendors may have taken a loss this year for a single outing. I only assume this because if people were rushed, they may have not taken time to explore every booth. Especially, since having gone to other conventions, vendors usually bank on making a profit throughout an entire weekend.
Anyway, despite the problems mention, which I hope are part of its growing pains, I think the convention was good. I thought it was ran pretty well, the staff was helpful, and it was a lot of fun while being limited. Also, it was nice to seeing cosplay, and getting to talk about pop culture with people in person again. Especially when it is in this part of the country, and specifically within this part of Massachusetts. Overall, if Springfield Comic Con fixes their issues, and listens to advice moving forward it should continue to grow. Nevertheless, I do not regret going, but I wish there was more to do and I had more money.