This past weekend, I happily supported the first ever Minnesota Fan Fest on August 19 and 20 at the St. Paul RiverCentre. Earlier in the month, I wrote about the convention’s cosplay policy, which had been somewhat controversial when it was first announced; in that article, I stressed that Fan Fest organizers were listening to the local community and had demonstrated good intentions to support Minnesota creators and to work with, not invade, the Twin Cities comic-book scene. While wandering the convention and spending my money, I wanted to see how a couple of those creators felt about the event and whether they would attend again.
I first stopped to talk to Eliot Rahal, a local comic writer who hosts New Comic Book Day every week at Day Block Brewing Company (a hilarious show, especially when tipsy on craft beer). Eliot described Minnesota Fan Fest as an incredibly exciting convention that he hopes will grow into a bigger experience, saying that all the con staff were lovely people. He mentioned he’d like to come back again to host his booth while engaging with a live audience at New Comic Book Day. His only mild complaint was that at times the convention felt slower than others where he has tabled. This is somewhat expected, since Minnesota Fan Fest is a first-year convention, so it doesn’t yet have the dedicated fans that other Minnesota shows have.
I also stopped by Dave Wheeler’s booth, which was located right in front of the exhibitor-hall entrance. Dave is one of the founders of Mind Wave Comics and tries to attend every comic convention that he can. His comments were similar to Elliot’s: that Minnesota Fan Fest had a good vibe and that the people putting on the show are passionate about connecting with the Minnesota geek community. He is hoping that next year’s event will see enough of a boost in attendance to become a staple convention in the Twin Cities convention season.
In addition to creators, there were quite a few comic-book stores tabling at this con. One was Source Comics and Games, which has a presence at a variety of different comic-based conventions and is a mainstay in the Minnesota comic scene, so I wanted to see what the store’s convention experience was like. I spoke briefly with Hans Spitzer, who said he felt that the sales made were higher than anticipated, which is encouraging. He did note that low attendance could be detrimental to the growth of local creators, but overall he was happy with how the convention turned out and would like to table again next year.
On the whole, it seemed that most creators had a great time tabling at this convention, with the attendance numbers being the consistent struggle mentioned. Being there on Saturday evening, it did feel empty to me; Sunday was a much better day, and I saw more people walking the exhibitor hall floor and more creators engaging with fans. Attendance is always a challenge for new conventions, and Minnesota Fan Fest has great intentions to grow. I’m happy to have been involved with this first-year con and hope that it will thrive in years to come.