I had high hopes for this convention and I was very disappointed with it this year.
To start with, this tale begins last year when I pre-registered for Artist Alley for this year. I, and others, were told that we would get first choice on tables since we were pre-registering. We were also told that we were switching to a better hotel. So keep those in mind during this review.
This year, prior to the convention, I received nothing about what all was taking place with Artist Alley. Sadly, this is nothing new, so I just watched the website for any updates. I also watched the Facebook page to be safe. I was excited for the new hotel, The Doubletree Hotel by Hilton, as it looked like it’d be an agreeable space for the convention.
First and foremost, those of us that pre-registered for Artist Alley last year were lied to. Several people and myself arrived later than the 6 a.m. beginning set-up time to find hardly any tables left, none of them being what first-choice would choose. We asked around and learned it had been first come, first serve this year. The tables were wider this year, but if you were in the middle aisles, you had barely any room to maneuver around your neighbors. It was exceptionally cramped, and we were forced to share space with the vendors as well. To be blunt, sales were poor for the majority of everyone in the room, artists and vendors alike. Hours weren’t stellar in there, being changed on Friday and Sunday both. It just felt like it was run with no one having any idea what they were doing.
The hotel was a lovely space, but the staff didn’t have any clue how to handle a convention. They didn’t have enough parking spaces, enough security, and didn’t know what situations to make a priority and what ones should be ignored. Checking badges for the convention in the hotel bar is silly, as is sending four security guards to follow one person to their room to get shoes. Calling attendees derogatory names is unprofessional. However, the attendees didn’t help matters. This convention was host to a lot of rude congoers, who were verbally abusive to people and trashed the lobby of the hotel with junk from outside of the hotel’s food services. It just wasn’t a good meshing of two worlds. On top of all of that, the space for the convention itself to be primarily located was insanely small for so many people to be put into, especially when no one was keeping the hallways clear when lines formed or people decided to stop walking and take pictures or chat. I know I had to personally yell at people the final day to move out of my way because they were blocking the hall while I was trying to load my car with Artist Alley stuff. It was ridiculous.
The topping to this wonderful mess of a cake? Pre-registration paperwork for Artist Alley next year. Tables are now being sold for $90 if you pre-register, but if you wait (and no one had an answer as to how long this would be), tables were going to be anywhere from $100-$110 (again, no one knew an exact number). Vendors were $100 for pre-registration and $385 later. Now, these numbers aren’t bad if you look at other conventions, but they’re exceptionally high for Wasabi with how disorganized and small this con is. I made it clear I wouldn’t be returning, as an artist or attendee.
In the end, this con was a bust. Poor sales, miscommunication, bad hotel choice… All these things killed the convention for me. I saw some awesome costumes and had some amazing AA neighbors, but it didn’t save Wasabi for me. For those attending next year, I wish you all the best. But I can safely say… This con about ruined all anime cons for me.