A Con Newbie Goes to a New Con

I’ve been part of the geek community in some way, shape, or form for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a video-game controller in one hand and a comic in the other, and I’ve taken part in many family trips to see the latest superhero movie on opening day.

Despite that, I had never gone to any kind of geek, nerd, or pop-culture convention. Here’s an odd irony: after not fitting in at school for years because of my geekiness, I stayed away from the cons because I felt like I wasn’t geeky enough to go. However, I have always been intrigued by the idea of a con—whether it’s a giant adventure like San Diego Comic-Con or a small, intimate event centered around one show, I love the idea of people getting together to geek out. So when I had the opportunity to attend Minnesota Fan Fest at the St. Paul RiverCentre, I jumped at the chance. A little over a week later, I’m glad I did.

The Minnesota Fan Fest exhibitor hall

The exhibitor hall at Minnesota Fan Fest 2017. Caissa Casarez

Day 1: I’m with My People

Wow—I was here. I headed straight for the pamphlet table after getting to the exhibition hall in the RiverCentre’s basement, partially because I’m a sucker for free things and partially to take it all in. Who knew a simple badge could make you feel so welcome?


The intimacy of Minnesota Fan Fest proved to be a good thing for me as a first-time con attendee. A few of the exhibitors I spoke to, including the Twin Cities Geek crew, agreed. I felt comfortable walking around and exploring in a way that I’m not sure would have been possible at a bigger con. I found solace in unofficial quiet spaces in the RiverCentre’s hall, complete with power outlets; this, combined with con goers being allowed to bring their own snacks and drinks inside, is a big win for people who want to save their money.

Another positive from Fan Fest was the amount of diversity I saw in the attendees and in the vendors. People of all races, ages, and sizes took part in the event, including many families. It felt nostalgic to see parents interact with their children at a con, since my dad helped me get into video games and comics as a kid. I also overheard a vendor speaking Spanish to a family, which is something I hope Fan Fest promotes in the future.

If there was one thing I could have done differently ahead of the first day, it would have been to do more research. While I read a few articles about what to expect at my first convention, I should have also looked through the list of vendors to see what each had to offer because, well, I wanted to buy all the things. I spent most of the night doing just that. I felt ready to take on the next day until . . .

Day 2: The Con Crud Is Real

The articles I’d read warned me about so-called “con crud,” or what happens when you exert your body a little bit too much during a con and you wake up feeling cruddy the next day. As I learned, it’s a real thing. D’oh! Despite that, I still went back to Fan Fest, just not to a panel like I wanted to. Oh, well. I did get the energy to put together a last-minute costume and go as Tina from Bob’s Burgers. I got lots of compliments on it, which made me happy.

The author wearing a Bob's Burgers shirt

“Uhhhh . . .” Caissa Casarez

The biggest difference between the first and second days had to be the addition of music playing throughout the exhibition hall, which made it that much more welcoming. I also noticed more families on Sunday, probably in part because it was “Family Day.” Props to Fan Fest for that—and for including a Disney singalong as a panel!

I had a thought of not buying anything; thankfully, that only lasted for about a second. I bought books, art, and other accessories from vendors based in Minnesota and out of state. Although it was hard to figure out what to buy and what could wait, I’m glad I don’t have buyer’s remorse a week later. I made a note to check out some of the local shops that had a presence at the con on a different day.

One issue that other Twin Cities Geek staff pointed out was that attendees had to go through security every time they left and reentered the exhibition hall—which they had to do to get to the panels upstairs. Fellow contributor Mariah Kaercher noted that it wasn’t much of an issue because of low attendance, meaning that at least people didn’t have to wait in a line to get through the security check, but she could see it becoming a concern in the future, and it could be difficult for people with full costumes. I’d like to see the panels become more diverse as well, but I’m happy to see the Fan Fest crew working with local artists for them.

Overall Thoughts

I absolutely loved my experience at Minnesota Fan Fest. There were some small hiccups, but those are to be expected for a first-time convention. I’m happy to see it will return next year (August 25 and 26, 2018), and I hope more people will check it out.

I’m also hooked on conventions in general, and I’m even considering traveling for one down the road. Do you have a favorite convention in the Midwest? Let me know in the comments!


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