HPLD Comic Con

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

For a few years, I've been tossing around a scheme to get a mini-con going at my library. I've been going to cons for many years now (my first was SDCC in 2008), and I had heard whispers of other libraries putting on their own mini comic cons. I have always been one to dream big, so of course I wanted to try this for myself. We live a long way away from the bigger cons (the closest is about 3 hours), and I wanted to show the community how much fun they could be.
Prior to this year, though, the general feeling of everyone at the library was "that seems like a lot of work." I totally understood, but I didn't feel comfortable enough to head up my own event of that size. This year I decided it was time to take on the challenge. So after months of planning and lots of e-mails, phone calls, and research, this spring HPLD Comic Con actually went from being a dream to a reality.

Leading up to the con I tried to do as much advertising as possible. I created a character (shown below) named Maureen who was the face of the con. I put her on all the posters we hung around town, and the bookmarks that we sent home from school with the kids. I also called local businesses, and talked to anyone I could to get the word out.

I went into the day trying to make this feel like a miniature version of the bigger cons. I kept saying that I wanted them to get the "full experience." And that experience started as soon as they walked in the door. We cut out badges for the kids to wear that we printed out on cardstock and added some ribbon to make a lanyard. They got them when they signed in, along with a bag full of flyers and freebies. 

Upstairs we had a sort of "artist ally" full of local art. One of the artists was even selling prints! I was trying to give the students around here some more art recognition, but in a setting that was more their style than the normal coffee house gallery.

Downstairs we had Legos, comic making, diy Minecraft swords, a "flying" photo opportunity, and of course tons of free comics. I was trying to maximize the amount of space we had, while keeping in mind the small number of staff that would be helping, so we had a lot of stations where you could easily entertain yourself without a lot of guidance.

One thing that happened at this con that I really didn't expect was how much epic cosplay we had! Doctors, Spartans, Disney Princesses, Hannibal... we had it all! And there was an extra adorable moment with Spiderman...

This was one of the most satisfying events I've had at the library. One of those events where you really feel like all your hard work paid off. Everyone that helped me was amazing, and they all seemed to be as devoted to the idea as I was. I can't tell you how big my smile got when people told me that this was the first Con they'd been to, but it wouldn't be their last!

The day after our con, we sat down and talked about what worked and what didn't. I had promised myself that if X amount of people came through the doors, we would talk about next year. We hit that goal, so we are already getting into the first stages of planning HPLD Con 2015. This next year will be bigger and better, and if we hit our goals again, this may become a regular thing. Even typing about this now, I can't believe it.

Tips for holding your own con...

It was amazing the help we got from the comic book shops around our area. Make sure to contact them as soon as you start planning. We asked for anything, even just a flyer to stuff our bags with. We wanted to make sure that this con was a starting point for something bigger, a way to introduce the community to the world of comics. The flyers were a great way to give them an idea of the resources that are available even in our rural location!

Contact the 501st. They're an amazing cosplay group based around the Empire from the Star Wars series. As soon as I knew our date for sure, I made sure to contact the Midwest Garrison. They shot out a request, and we actually had a Trooper come to our con! It really added that extra bit of fun for not only the kids, but the adults as well!

Talk to art students in your area. There were a lot of kids that showed up because we did some PR at the local High School's art fair. Half of our artist alley was local students. In my experience, if they are really into the idea you have, they'll try to get anyone they can involved.

Have entertainment going on at all times. This year we had a couple of movies and some comfy couches set up, and some people stayed and watched movies after they had seen all of the stuff we had to offer. We didn't realize people would want to hang around, so I'm glad we decided to show the movies. Next year we want to try to get some panels together to give the kids more things to be involved in.

Be passionate. This con was a lot of work for everyone involved. If you show how much you love it, it will really reflect on the event itself. Think out of the box, solve problems as they come, don't stress over having everything perfect, and most of all HAVE FUN.

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